OPINION: Thomas Becker, EWEA
The economic and political winds of change for Europe’s energy security are in full flow.
With Ukraine on the brink of civil war and an IPCC report calling on the world’s governments to invest in renewables immediately, Europe’s policymakers face a dilemma that cannot be solved with words alone.
Add to that a Heads of State summit in March that failed to deliver a complete verdict on 2030 climate and energy targets and this paints a picture of uncertainty in Europe, particularly in the short term.
One thing is clear however: investment in renewables is essential and ultimately inevitable.
Part of the answer to Europe’s energy independence, of how to spur economic growth, create jobs and protect the climate lies in the wind industry; But to achieve this, policymakers must set aside differences in favor of the common good for the region.
Investments in wind and other renewables will not wait and as the IPCC clearly laid out in its climate change mitigation report earlier this month; the longer we delay, the higher the financial and social cost to the taxpayer.
The wind industry, particularly onshore, offers proven and affordable technology to power business and consumers with renewable energy.
While the cheapest and least precarious route to dealing with global warming is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, starting immediately with cuts to their subsidies over the coming decades.
The IPCC report stresses that removing the subsidy safety net for high polluting energies such as oil and coal could result in a 13% decline in global emissions by mid-century.
Subsidies for fossil fuels amount to $1.9 trillion a year, according to the International Monetary Fund; surely this is money that could be used to develop and support growing technologies with massive potential like offshore wind.
Now, Europe has an opportunity to take the lead and can be a global role model for renewable energy at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next year.
But first the European Commission must lay the groundwork for a transition away from fossil fuels by setting a nationally binding renewables target of at least 30% by 2030.
Such a target would create 570,000 more jobs at a time when many Europeans are out of work; it would slash gas imports by 26%, and avoid €260bn in fuel costs
And then there is the question of security; a vital one in the current political climate.
Critics love to paint wind energy as an expensive and unreliable technology but the real price comes from relying on Russian oligarchs and Arab sheikhs to keep our lights on at night.
Already, each European sends €2 a day to tycoons in Russia and the Middle East. Instead, why not let us invest in wind and other renewables – European energy sources which do not have to be imported, which will not run out, and in industries where Europe is a leading player.
The wind is not subject to Mr. Putin’s mood swings or instability in some of the world’s most volatile regions.
Today, renewables make up over 20% of EU electricity generation and can do far more.
It is clear that we are at a crossroads in Europe and policymakers at national level and in Brussels will have to choose a path.
Do we lock ourselves in to fossil fuels for the next 50 years, kowtowing to the demands of leaders in foreign lands; or do we allow Europeans to determine their own future, safe in the knowledge that the wind energy tap cannot be turned off?
I know which path I would take.
Thomas Becker is chief executive of EWEA