WindEurope advocates wind energy policies for Europe on behalf of more than 400 member companies, from all across the value chain: turbine manufacturers and their component suppliers, wind farm owners and operators, as well as nearly all large utilities in Europe including Poland’s PGE.
WindEurope provides a common voice to hundreds of wind energy companies across Europe. What are the most pressing matters on your agenda today?
Two main challenges require our attention presently: one is the competitiveness of the European wind energy supply chain, and the second is facilitate improved permitting of new wind farms across Europe. We aim to grow from 190 GW, which is what we have installed today, to over 1,000 GW, which is what the European Commission expects by 2050 to decarbonize the energy system in Europe.
Can you expand on the issues that are affecting the supply chain competitiveness?
It is well known that turbine manufacturers in Europe have been laying people off in recent months, for instance we have lost 38,000 jobs in Germany in the last four years. The issues causing this are not unique to Germany, rather they are felt all across Europe (although in Germany there have been some specific issues in government policy making which have exacerbated the situation).
The prices earned for the energy we generate have fallen - a good thing for consumers, but the hard reality is that we are relying increasingly on our global supply chain in order to source the equipment and components we need to deliver projects at the prices that are winning auctions.
Our margins are tighter than they used to be and many players in our supply chain are struggling. And volumes are not yet growing at the level at which they should be to meet the EU’s ambitious goals.
What is holding back the pace at which volumes are growing to reach the targets set by the EU?
One reason is that we still do not have sufficient visibility from national governments on the levels they want to install over the next 10 years - a problem which we hope will be solved in the coming months, when the national governments finish they NECPs for 2030.
We also expect to receive their plans for dealing with existing capacities that will come to the end of life cycle between now and 2030. Because if we do not have a plan for these as well, we risk losing a lot of the existing capacity which would undermine the goals they have set for 2030.
The national plans also have to point to their schedule for auctioning new capacities and how they will be designed and executed. We are hoping for much more clarity in the final versions of NECPs, as the first drafts were lacking in detail and not ambitious enough.
Are you optimistic about the goals they will put forward? And how does public support influence these plans?
Greece has increased the target for renewable energy from 31% to 35%, Bulgaria and Czech Republic announced they are increasing their target by 2-3%. There are a number of positive developments out there and this is why we are cautiously optimistic that the final versions will paint a better picture.
The number of people that are opposing wind development is no greater than it ever was, arguably it is actually smaller. All public opinion surveys show that 75-80% of people across Europe are supportive of the expansion of onshore wind. And even those who live close to wind farms are most often happy. But you have various minority groups who oppose and who are increasingly well organized and funded.
One of the biggest issues developers are struggling with in Poland is the distance rule, and Germany is implementing one as well. If people are more accepting, what do these regulations rest on?
Politics played an important role in both countries you mentioned. The relatively new government established in Poland introduced the 10H law in 2016. At the time there was a large volume of projects that already had a permit, to which the rule did not apply and these projects are going forward.
On December 5th in fact, Poland has auctioned 2,2 GW, Europe’s largest ever renewables auction. And the Polish government signaled that there would be further auctions for onshore wind going forward. There seems to be fairly strong recognition in the Polish government for the shift in energy, which would involve less coal and more renewables. It is also encouraging that the Polish Government have now announced that an act revising the 10h distance law will shortly be submitted for public consultation.
What instruments do you have at your disposal to guide local policies and what did you find works best?
Good practice on the part of wind farm developers is essential, and we proactively disseminate the Dos and the Don’ts for engaging local communities. We have had a EU wide tool for this nearly three years now and I am pleased that in Poland a particular set of national protocols was adopted in June this year in this sense. It is important that developers engage communities at the very early stages, listen to their concerns and take them on board as they are developing the projects.
It is important that developers ensure local communities benefit economically and financially from the presence of wind farms. We are keen to promote models of community financial participation and some countries already actively encourage this, for instance you cannot build a new onshore wind farm in Scotland without offering options for community participation.
Offshore wind has generated huge enthusiasm in Poland. What contribution will the WindEurope Baltic Task Force bring to this sector?
In the North Sea there is a very active process of cooperation between the countries that surround it. They coordinate development and investments in the grid connection, timing of auctions, their regulation etc. We want to replicate that in the Baltic, namely the 8 countries around the Baltic Sea to coordinate the planning of their offshore projects.
We are overall very optimistic about the development of this sector in Poland - the government has set clear targets and is now developing a legal framework that we see as extremely positive.
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