Rhein on Energy and Climate

For the past 10 years the EU has been the undisputed leader of wind power development, first on land and more recently off-shore. Combined, EU countries continue to have more wind-power capacity installed than any other region on earth; but its advance is rapidly shrinking as the USA and more recently China are developing their wind power generation at an ultra-fast pace.

Wind power will have be one of the mainstays of any future system of power generation. Theoretically, the earth has a commercially viable wind power potential of 72 000 GW, five times the present global power consumption. But only 1.5 percent of globalof global electricity consumption areis being generated by wind today. Denmark is the world champion with a wind penetration share of almost 20 percent, followed by Spain and Portugal (11percent) and Germany and Ireland (7 percent).

Because of intermittence and variability of wind it is difficult, with present grid technology, to obtain a higher penetration rates than 20 percent, though for penetration rates of more than 50 percent have been registered momentarily in the Spanish grid in November 2009. That leaves a huge scope for development in the EU and world-wide from the minimal penetration levels reached so far.

Medium-term expansion plans forof wind capacity are is likely to exceed thatose for of nuclear power, so that by 2030 the global wind power capacitypower capacity will be substantially bigger than nuclear power. This should be applaudedbe applauded as a positive development.

Thus China`s capacity is projected to jump from 30 GW in 2009 to a record figure of 300 GW (?) China is one of the countries with a huge wind power potential. Its land-based potential would be able to meet 7 times its present electricity need! China is one of the countries with a huge wind power potential. Its land-based potential would be able to meet its electricity needs.

Brazil, the USA and African coastal areas also dispose of big substantial wind potentials.

The EU has largely tapped the best suited most profitable land areas for wind energy generation. Its future development should be off-shore, in the Baltic Sea, and the

North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, west of off the Portuguese, Spanish, British and Irish the UK and Ireland. This coasts. This development has started, but so far the installed capacity is tiny (no more than 3 GW).

There are two reasons for the EU giving an additional push to its wind power:

  • It is still the cheapest way of generating renewable energy and helping the EU to reach its emission targets for 2020.
  • It constitutes a major sector for innovation, employment and exports.

The EU should rapidly undertake three actions in view of underpinning its the EU wind energy sector:

<b>First, develop an EU-wide high voltage direct current grid.</b>

This should connect the increasing number of off–shore wind power plants in northern Europe among themselves andthemselves and with the growing number of grid-connected solar installations (PV or solar concentrated power) in southern Europe.

Such a comprehensive grid would help to establish a better balance between the variations of between power supply from different sources and regions and fluctuating demand in different parts regionsof , Europe, especially if accompanied by grid energy storage systems and sophisticated demand management. This would overcome a major inconvenient weaknessof both wind and solar energy.

<b>Second, proceed with the overdue separation of power generation and transmission.</b>

Europe needs this separation in order to put more focus on the improvement of the grid and enable optimal competition between the rising numbers of small and big power generators. It will need to invest at least some € 50 billion in the improvement and extension of the grid. The necessary capital will only come forth if the EU defines the base rules for the long-term development of the European power sector.

<b>Third, define EU-wide feed – in tariffs and renewable portfolio standards.</b>

Today, the EU presents a confusing picture of feed-in tariffs; and unlike half of the US states the EU The refrainrefrains from imposing upon their utilities a sharethe share of renewables in their overall electricity output.

Such a situation leads to competitive distortions and is thereforeis therefore not conducive to optimal trans-border investments.

Brussels 11.12.09
Eberhard Rhein

Author :
Print