Energy Transition

Wind energy projects waiting years for electricity grid connection, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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Wind turbines.

Wind energy projects are facing delays. Image: Unsplash/Karsten Würth

Michael Purton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
  • This weekly round-up contains the key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate news: Wind energy projects waiting years for electricity grid connection; Early warning system for dangerous heatwaves could ‘save lives’; Google’s greenhouse gas emissions rise 48% in five years.

1. Wind energy projects face lengthy delays for grid connection

Hundreds of wind energy projects are having to wait years for permits to connect to the power grid in Europe – and the backlog is slowing the move to renewable energy, according to a new report by WindEurope.

The wind power industry advocate said securing access to the electricity grid is the number one bottleneck to deploying renewables at scale.

With Europe's power networks upgraded too slowly to absorb more capacity, and sluggish grid-permitting procedures in many countries, some projects face waiting times of up to nine years to receive a permit, the report found.

"The system is clogged up – and holding back hundreds of gigawatts of wind farms," WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said.

The European Union (EU) aims to derive 42.5% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 – this means expanding wind power capacity to 425GW by 2030, up from 220GW today.

Part of the problem, according to the report’s authors, is that projects are assessed on a "first come, first served" basis when they apply, meaning the most mature projects – those most likely to go ahead – cannot jump the queue.

“Currently more than 500GW of total wind capacity in Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK are waiting for grid connection assessment,” they say.

Grid connection queues in Europe.
Grid assessment delays and congestion are preventing some European countries from accessing renewable energy. Image: WindEurope, Aurora Energy Research

“The total standby capacity figure for Europe is much higher. This is not just due to grid saturation or lack of adequate planning up to 2050. Grid permitting procedures are also inefficient.”

The report adds: “Curtailment is the second key factor limiting grid access to renewable generation. Wind farms may be connected to the grid but cannot export a large part of their generation due to grid congestion – a problem that can last for several hours.”

Lack of alignment between national wind and solar capacity targets and grid plans
There is a significant disparity between national wind and solar capacity targets and grid plans in Europe. Image: WindEurope/Ember

2. Early warning system for dangerous heatwaves could ‘save lives’

An early warning system for dangerous heatwaves is now essential to save lives, according to new research.

With cities across the world struck by extreme heat this year, leading to a spate of heat-related deaths, scientists are calling for a global heat early warning system so countries can better prepare to mitigate the impact of severe heatwaves on the health of citizens, public services, agriculture and other affected industries.

“Heatwaves are the deadliest weather hazard and people and societies across the world continue to suffer from heat-related impacts,” the article published in Plos Climate says.

“Future climate projections show a troubling increase in cross-sectoral impacts including health and economic risk presented by heatwaves.

“Many weather hazards such as floods and droughts already have a type of Early Warning System (EWS) or Global Alert System, but a global heat early warning system currently does not exist. An accurate heat EWS can save lives and can promote heat adaptation across society.”

A successful warning system would include “multi-sectoral cooperation that integrates the public health sector and meteorological services alongside the food and agriculture, manufacturing, energy, information technology, financial, transportation sectors and beyond”, it concludes.

A 21st Century schematic of a Global Heat Early Warning system
These are the four elements scientists believe are needed for an effective global heat early warning system. Image: Plos Climate/Brimicombe et al

How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

Google’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen 48% over the past five years, with the technology giant saying that artificial intelligence data centres were a main cause. Electricity consumption by data centres powering its AI products and supply chains was the primary reason for the increase, Google said in its annual environmental report – which also revealed that the company’s emissions in 2023 were up 13% compared to the previous year. The rise brings attention to the impact artificial intelligence could have on the climate as applications increase and the urgent need to tackle emissions.

Latin America and the Caribbean should prepare for the arrival of La Niña, the climate pattern that causes an increase in hurricanes as well as floods and droughts. The World Meteorological Organization issued the warning during a webinar on La Niña's threat, as Hurricane Beryl made its way across the eastern Caribbean.

In Germany, apartment residents have been given the legal right to install solar panels on their balconies. The German government has passed a law that prevents landlords from blocking the installation of plug-in solar devices without an exceptional reason.

A climate-damaging fuel for ships has been banned in the Arctic. Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), a tar-like cheap oil widely used in shipping, is particularly damaging in the Arctic where the black carbon it emits when burned speeds up the melting of snow and ice, the BBC reports. Despite the ban coming into effect now, campaigners warn that loopholes will allow most ships to use HFO until 2029.

Farmers in the UK say the new government needs a proper plan for food security as the climate becomes less predictable, according to The Guardian. The appeal came after official data showed that year-on-year vegetable yields decreased by 4.9% in 2023, while fruit production volumes dropped by 12%, following the wettest 18 months since records began, across the 2023-24 growing year.

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1. Wind energy projects face lengthy delays for grid connection2. Early warning system for dangerous heatwaves could ‘save lives’3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this weekMore on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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