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'Things should be looking good for EU wind – but they're not'

OPINION | Encouraging 2016 installation figures can't mask post-2020 policy uncertainties, says WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson

We begin 2017 with some encouraging storylines and numbers.  The total new wind installations for 2016 across Europe came out at 12.5GW, only slightly down on 2015. That brings the EU’s total capacity to 153.7 GW, with 10.9 GW added onshore and 1.6GW offshore. 

At the same time investment decisions in new wind farms totalled a record €27.5bn ($29.4bn) largely driven by offshore wind at €18bn.

This year we will see a major expansion in tenders for onshore wind.  Germany will auction 2.8GW of capacity.  There should also be auctions in Spain, France and elsewhere.  In many ways 2017 will be the year when wind transitions out of feed-in-tariffs for new projects and into auctions.

The investment numbers for 2016 look good. But it doesn’t offset the uncertainty that wind energy is facing after 2020.

With all the talk about the transition to low-carbon, things should be looking good long-term for the wind industry in Europe.   But they’re not. Over half the member states invested nothing in wind energy last year.

Government policy on energy across Europe is less clear and ambitious than it was a few years ago.  Only seven out of 28 EU member states have targets and policies in place for renewables beyond 2020. 

Germany dominates as EU adds 12.5GW of new wind in 2016

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The transition from feed-in tariffs to auctions has been less smooth than we hoped.  We still have dysfunctional electricity markets that are not fit for renewables.  And we’re lacking long-term price signals to support investment.

We need a robust European market to keep reducing costs and retain the global competitiveness of the European wind industry.  And we need clear visibility of future market volumes, and whatever schemes and regulation are going to help deliver them.  For example, for offshore wind we need at least 4GW a year for costs to continue to fall – so far governments have committed to only 2.7GW a year beyond 2020. 

Policy is key, especially when we look at the longer term. European countries need to deliver national action plans on how they are going to collectively meet the EU's 2030 renewables target. The Clean Energy Package is the blueprint for this.

The Council and the European Parliament need to start working seriously on the Commission’s Clean Energy Package proposals.

Giles Dickson is CEO of WindEurope