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Wind in the EU’s Energy Mix

With an impressive compound annual growth rate of over 20 per cent in MW installed between 2000 and 2007, and now accounting for over 5 per cent of total generation, wind energy has clearly established itself as a relevant power source. In 2007, 40 per cent of all new generating capacity installed in the EU was wind power. Shifting trends in generation mix planning, brought on by the challenges of supply security, climate change and cost competitiveness are increasing support for wind as a mainstream generation technology able to meet a substantial share of Europe’s electricity demand.  Based on their existing generation mix, European countries will move at different speeds to incorporate wind into their energy portfolios; however, the changing political will and the improving performance of wind power underline its increasing competitiveness.

Of the main RES technologies, wind is the most rapidly deployable, clean and affordable, which explains why Europe is choosing this technology to help reach its 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.   Wind has already made solid steps forward, penetrating national transmission systems by as much as 10 per cent in several markets, and as much as 21 per cent in Denmark.  Key features of wind’s role in the national energy mix of European countries include its increasing weight relative to competing technologies, the level of penetration it has reached in specific markets, and the speed at which it has been deployed.  Wind’s production variability will have an impact on a grid control area’s generation mix, though transmission operators are increasingly capable of managing higher penetration levels as long as they maintain a flexible balance in the portfolio with dispatchable generation plant. 

Wind power has experienced dramatic growth over recent years, and now represents over 10 per cent of the total installed power capacity, and more than 5 per cent of national electricity demand, in five European markets - Germany, Spain, Denmark, Portugal and Ireland, surpassing 10 per cent of the electricity demand in both Spain and Denmark. As the industry continues to work with grid planners, utilities and developers to accommodate the variable nature of wind power generation, it is expected that the threshold for wind power penetration in several markets will increase.  This will be particularly crucial for tapping offshore potential, as new transmission lines will be required for wind to see a greater surge in large-scale capacity additions.     

Wind power has developed similarly to other power sources. Fig 1.4 shows the global development of wind energy (1991-2007) compared with nuclear power (1961-1977).

Figure 1.4: 16 Years of Global Wind Energy Development 1991-2006 Compared to the First 16 Years of Nuclear Development


Fig 1.4: 16 years of global wind energy development 1991-2006 compared to the first 16 years of nuclear development, Source: IAEA, EWEA

Source: IAEA and EWEA

Wind energy increased its share of total capacity in the EU to 7 per cent in 2007, and its impact on new generation capacity has been noticeable. 30 per cent of all power capacity installed between 2000 and 2007 was wind power, making it the second largest contributor to new EU capacity over the last eight years after natural gas (55 per cent). In 2007, no other electricity generating technology increased more than wind power in the EU. 6 per cent of all new capacity over the eight-year period was coal, 3 per cent fuel oil and 2 per cent large hydro, with nuclear and biomass coming in at 1 per cent each (Figures 1.5 and 1.6). 


Figure 1.5: New Power Capacity, EU, 2000-2007


Fig 1.5: New power capacity EU 2000-2007, Source: EWEA and Platts

Source: EWEA and Platts (2008)



Figure 1.6: New Power Capacity, EU, 2000-2007 (in MW)

Fig 1.6: New power capacity EU 2000-2007 (in MW), Source: EWEA and Platts

Source: EWEA and Platts (2008)

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