The winds of change continue to blow through the European energy sector. Renewables – in particular wind power – continue to grow in overall importance, even though their rate of adoption slowed over the last year.
Across the whole of the EU, 95% of all new power installations in 2018 were for renewables, coupled with encouraging levels of investment. In all, there was a 20% year-on-year jump to €26.7 billion ($30.26 billion): investment in offshore wind farms reached €10.3 billion ($11.67 billion) while onshore investments hit a record high of €16.4 billion ($18.59 billion). In all, 63% of investments in renewable energy were for wind – up from 52% in 2017.
But, according to research from WindEurope, a body that represents the wind energy industry, 2018 saw a 32% fall in the amount of new wind energy capacity installed by the EU’s 28 members. That fall is most likely to have been caused by a combination of two key factors. Changes in funding and the availability of public subsidies have led to the market for new installations cooling slightly. Another reason for the seemingly dramatic drop is that 2017 was a record year for Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK, which is amplifying the difference between the two years.
Currently, wind power accounts for 18.4% of the EU’s total installed energy generating capacity, and 14% of total electricity demand. It is also top of the most installed rankings for 2018 – it accounts for 48% of total power capacity sites, which is higher than any other form of energy generation.
The WindEurope report also highlights those countries that are leading the way, or at the very least punching above their weight when it comes to wind power.
It will surely surprise no one that Denmark figures prominently where wind power is concerned. Like its Scandinavian neighbours Norway and Sweden, which are also committed to green energy, Denmark has a strong pedigree in renewables. In 2017, it got 74% of its energy from renewable sources. At 41%, Denmark boasts the highest amount of wind energy as a proportion of its overall electricity demand – far more than other EU nations.
It may lack the long-standing green energy credentials of Denmark, but the Emerald Isle is no slouch where wind power adoption is concerned. For while Denmark leads the field with 41%, Ireland is the second-placed country, with 28% of its power needs met by wind last year. Under its 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, Ireland set itself the goal of producing 16% of all its energy from renewable sources by 2020. However, in 2017 Ireland only managed 10.7% so has some ground to make up.
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It may lag behind Denmark and Ireland, but in 2017-18 the UK saw a larger annual increase of wind in its electricity demand than any other EU member, from 13.5% to 18%. It also ranked second for the number of wind power installations undertaken in 2018; representing 16% of the EU total. Two-thirds of the UK’s new wind site are offshore and this is where the UK really stands out. For example, its Walney 3 Extension offshore wind farm has 87 turbines and a capacity of 657 MW, making it the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world.
Like the Scandinavian countries, Germany has a history of being a green energy leader. Two years ago, it broke its own energy record when 85% of its electricity needs were met by renewables. It still dominates in this field, having installed 29% of new wind sites across the EU last year. That’s down on 2017, when it was responsible for 39% of all EU wind installations. But it still has by far the largest installed base for wind energy at 31% of the total, dwarfing second-placed Spain which has 12%.