Wind Energy Scenarios for 2020

Annual installation growth is predicted to return to pre-2012 levels by 2020 (Peter Barker) Annual installation growth is predicted to return to pre-2012 levels by 2020 (Peter Barker)
Industry Database

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has published its latest predictions of what the wind energy scene in Europe will look like in 2020, updating previous reports in 2009 and 2011.

The need to constantly update such predictions is understandable. Windfarm developers, supply chain interests and other stakeholders may well be able to control their own direction and destiny but their influence in areas such as economic downturns and regulatory instability, not to mention what direction political winds are blowing is less so (the wind that fuels their turbines is very predictable by comparison).

One only has to look at how the UK’s offshore wind map has changed over a relatively short period to appreciate the dilemma for those who have to plan many years ahead but have to react to circumstances and developments that are perhaps not foreseen earlier in the story. The EWEA can help with predictions here and hence the report: it is important to note that it covers both onshore and offshore wind.

The European Commission now expects final power demand in 2020 to be 11% lower than it did in 2009. In reality this means EU power demand is not expected to increase above its 2008 peak until after 2020. Economic reality is therefore having an impact on demand for new power installations for all generation technologies. The report considers this economic reality has also fed through to the stability of regulatory and market frameworks for wind energy. This has in turn impacted investment plans, new orders, investment decisions already taken, and existing installations in markets across Europe. EWEA considers that retroactive and retrospective changes to these frameworks have had a particularly negative impact on the wind energy sector, especially in certain markets.

Given the above variables, including a new round of climate and energy discussions at EU level, a single growth scenario for wind energy is no longer sufficient. Based on the premise that instability experienced in wind energy markets to date is not fully compensated for by new installations in the latter half of the decade (particularly offshore) EWEA are proposing three growth scenarios to 2020.

The Low Scenario sees installed capacity increasing by 41% (compared to 2013) to 165.6GW. Offshore installations make up 19.5GW of this total. All wind energy will provide 12.8% of total EU power demand. The Central Scenario envisages installed capacity increasing by 64% to 192.5GW. Offshore installations make up 23.5GW of this total. EU total power demand from all wind energy rises to 14.9% here. Finally the High Scenario sees installed capacity increase to 84.9%, offshore reaching almost 28GW. Combined wind energy provides 17% of EU demand.

The report’s crystal ball makes an optimistic assessment of the future general backdrop. Regulatory stability returns to most European markets, annual installation growth returning to pre-2012 levels. Strong and positive EU climate and energy agreements and renewable energy targets sees a boost in a number of key markets including Germany, France, Italy and the UK. As the economic crisis fades, markets such as Spain should begin to show signs of growth. Offshore windfarm installations are similar to those of the central scenario, except in Belgium, Ireland and the UK where there is extra growth. Germany’s offshore connection capacity of 7.7 GW is almost totally met.

The focus of the Wind Energy Scenarios for 2020 report is on charts presenting various previous and current predictions including EWEA’s own previous 2020 scenario, National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs), the EU Prime data and the EWEA’s latest three 2020 scenarios. Although the charts cover both onshore and offshore, the relevant offshore wind picture is reflected upon here.

The previous EWEA scenario for 2020 (40GW) is very similar to the NREAPs for 2010 and EC 2013 figures (43GW and 48GW respectively). An indication of the changed situation as mentioned above is where the latest EWEA low, central and high scenario figures are now 20GW, 23GW and 28GW respectively.

As mentioned, one factor in the revised scenario figure is the lower than previously anticipated electricity consumption demand (based on 2009). Again this is reflected in the chart showing predictions for electricity consumption generated by offshore wind. Both the previous EWEA 2020 scenario and the NREAPs 2010 agreed on a figure of 4% for the share of wind energy in EU electricity consumption: the EC 2013 figure being slightly higher at 4.8%. This latest prediction sees relevant figures for the low, central and high scenarios standing at 2.4%, 2.9% and 3.5% respectively.

The development of onshore wind has of course been an on-going and progressive story for many decades. One of the limits to the pace of development however has been addressing the growth in size of the turbines themselves. As turbines have got bigger so have the challenge of actually transporting them to the site, not to mention the increased attention from the public objecting to them on various grounds including aesthetic (something that has not gone unnoticed by politicians). Not such a problem for offshore of course and a development that actually promoted the advantages of greater output without the problems of transportation and installation. As onshore faced increased opposition and offshore also now has various challenges it is worth noting that for the share of wind energy in demand for onshore and offshore combined, the figures for all six comparisons are very much closer together with the highest figure (16.9%) actually being the new EWEA high scenario.

By Peter Barker

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