The outlook for European wind power is clouded by uncertainty that threatens jobs and the EU's ambitions for a 'Green Deal' to turbocharge climate action on the continent, WindEurope warned.

The most likely central scenario of the industry body’s latest mid-term outlook expects Europe to add 90GW of new wind capacity between 2019 and 2023 – 72GW of it onshore – to reach a total of 277GW by then.

But WindEurope said the wide variance between the central forecast, and the high and low scenarios on either side shows the huge impact, for better or worse, that key policy decisions will have on the sector’s mid-term fortunes – especially the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) that EU member states have to wrap up by the end of the year, but which have been slammed as lacking ambition in their draft forms.

If EU member states turbocharge their NECPs then Europe could see 112GW added. If the NECPs remain unambitious and the type of permitting issues that have choked the market in Germany continue to dog the market, installations could be as low as 67GW.

WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said the policy unknowns are putting the dampers on what should be a buoyant wind power market, given the imperatives of climate change and wind’s highly competitive cost of energy.

But the policy headwinds are already taking their toll on national wind auctions, with tenders in Germany, Greece and France all heavily undersubscribed over the last year or so.

“There is real uncertainty about how far it’s going to expand in the next five years,” Dickson said. “It’s getting harder to secure permits for new wind farms in many countries. The grids and energy markets are still not functioning as they should. And many governments simply haven’t decided yet how much new wind they want and when and how they’re going to build it.”

The EU won’t hit its 2030 target of 32% renewable energy unless member states’ NECPs deliver, and ambitions for the bloc to deliver a ‘European Green Deal’ under incoming European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will be undermined.

Jobs are at stake here. The wind industry employs over 300,000 people in Europe.

Dickson added: “Jobs are at stake here. The wind industry employs over 300,000 people in Europe but has lost 35,000 jobs in Germany alone over the last four years in large part because of public policy issues.”

Governments also need to come up with clear policies to support repowering of the huge amount of European wind nearing the end of its life, Dickson said.

Uncertainty in the market is already creating a headache for forecasters as they try to look ahead even to the end of 2019, which could see installations of 16.8GW, up from 11.7GW in 2018. However, that will depend on frantic activity in the second half in markets such as Spain, Sweden and Norway, which were running behind installation expectations in the first half, WindEurope said.