On November 9th 2011, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) published a new report revealing that European wind power production will meet a massive 31 percent of the emissions reduction required by the current EU climate targets. This report and the data presented in it indicate that wind energy can play a vital role in the EU's low-carbon future, outlined in the EU Commission's 2050 Roadmap.
The EWEA report, "Wind energy and EU climate policy - Achieving 30% lower emissions by 2020", is good environmental news in a time when the EU seems to be overly concentrated on financial issues. The ongoing "Greek tragedy" in particular more or less draws the attention of European politicians and EU citizens alike from climate change mitigation and green investments to the day-to-day financial challenges in the Eurozone. Furthermore, despite the EU's efforts to hold on to its position of a rapidly growing green economy, according to the UN's report "Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011", prepared by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, there was a decline of 22 percent in new financial investment in large-scale renewable energy in Europe in 2010.
Therefore, the EWEA report literally comes as a breath of fresh air. In short, it states that by 2020, the wind industry in the EU will result in the avoidance of 342 million tonnes of CO2, which equals a total of 31% of the EU's target of reducing emissions by 20%. In addition, the EWEA report focuses on policy recommendations intended to increase the emissions reduction potential through the development of more renewable energy sources.
The timing of the EWEA report could not be better, especially in view of the Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050, published by the European Commission in February 2011. It is currently up for discussion in the European Parliament and there is a possibility that the legally binding renewable energy targets after 2020 will be increased. As the EU Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, puts it, "this is one lesson we've learned in Europe in the last ten years - it helps when we have targets and it helps even more when we have binding targets". If this happens, the use of renewable energy resources will have to increase significantly so that the targets set in the 2050 Roadmap could be met.
Wind power definitely has the potential to help the EU meet its 2050 Roadmap targets. Unlike fossil fuels, wind energy does not emit greenhouse gases. In short, wind power is produced through the conversion of wind power into electricity as the windmill blades power a turbine. The technologies for producing wind power are more advanced in their efficiency comparison to other sources of renewable energy such as solar power, which in turn presents excellent opportunities for green investments. According to the European Commission, cumulative wind power capacity in the EU increased by an average of 32 percent per year between 1995 and 2005.
The EWEA also recognises that wind power is the most affordable of the renewable electricity technologies. This is supported by the data in the already mentioned report on the global trends in renewable energy investment for 2011, where wind is stated to lead green investments in energy, as investments in wind energy rose with 30 percent during 2010. In addition, according to "2011 Snapshot on European Wind Energy", a paper of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, the general trend is that the wind energy sector is broadening its market base and that a growing number of countries are increasing their wind energy capacities. Therefore, in order to be able to reach the 2050 Roadmap targets, EU Member States are likely to choose the most affordable and efficient renewable energy option.
The wind energy sector should also be examined in relation to the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). According to the EWEA Report, from 2005 when the EU ETS was first launched, until 2010, newly installed wind power capacity was a major source of emissions reduction in the sectors covered by the EU ETS, accounting for 83 percent of the total reduction effort. As the EU ETS moves to the more rigid Phase III, companies might need to further explore the potential for green investments into wind energy projects as a source of carbon credits.