By Kristian Ruby,
Chief Policy Officer, EWEA
The wind industry has evolved greatly in the last three decades, and has emerged from the fringes to become a significant provider of electricity, accounting for more than 40% of all new power capacity additions in 2014 and covering 10% of Europe’s electricity consumption in the same period.
For people operating in the maritime sector, the emergence and growing importance of the offshore wind sector to deliver carbonfree electricity on a large scale presents many opportunities for investment and growth, with over 3,000 turbines installed at sea to date, in 11 European Member States.
HOW HAS THE OFFSHORE WIND MARKET EVOLVED IN THE LAST DECADE?
The European offshore wind market has seen the most development in the Northern Seas, beginning with early deployment of sub-20MW sites in Denmark and Netherlands. Since the turn of the century though, we have seen larger and larger sites being developed, leading to the largest wind farm in the world, the 630MW London Array being commissioned in 2013, with plans for multiple 1.2GW sites in the Dogger Bank announced this year.
The UK has emerged as the largest market for offshore wind, with about half of the 10GW of installed offshore wind capacity established there, and in 2015 Germany established itself as the second largest market, with 2.7GW of installed capacity, due in large part to a backlog of projects finally coming to fruition this year. Other key markets such as Denmark and Belgium have seen good growth as well, with Denmark close to reaching a 1.5GW by 2020 target already, though we have seen a stall in growth in Belgium from required onshore grid upgrades.
WHERE WILL WE SEE GROWTH IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
As other countries have come to realise the enormous potential that offshore wind has to power markets and the wider economy, other markets will diversify the share of turbine installations beyond UK and Germany, which will continue to be leading markets in the immediate years.
The Netherlands has begun reemerging, with the recent completion at Luchterduinen, and the construction at Westermeerwind and Gemini spurring growth in 2015, as well as the further promise of 700MW each year for 5 years from the Dutch government. Similarly, France has just recently passed its energy transition law that sets a course away from nuclear, providing a positive signal for the 3GW of sites that are deep in the planning phase already, including a recently announced tender for deploying floating offshore wind concepts, a technology with the capacity to open up even more markets.
WHAT WILL BE IMPORTANT BEYOND 2020?
EWEA has just published its Wind Energy Scenarios for 2030, a report which shows the potential that both onshore and offshore wind can offer Europe as part of the EU’s commitment to 40% GHG reduction. In our central scenario, offshore wind has the potential to grow to 23.5GW by 2020, and to 66GW by 2030. The extent of the growth that is projected however, will require the ambitions of governments to set a clear pathway for the years 2020-2030, and good policies are of paramount importance here. Strong political support that seeks to ambitiously grow the share of renewable energy could see 98GW of development in European waters, creating extra jobs along every part of the supply chain and fully establishing a new industry for Europe to export to the rest of the world.
For the industry, the challenge will be to continue to deliver on cost reduction, and 2015 has certainly told us that the industry is delivering on this. The UK is ahead of its cost reduction pathway, a story also repeated in Denmark with the tendering of Horns Rev 3, a 400MW offshore wind farm which set a price of DKK 0.77/kWh, equivalent to EUR 103/MWh, which is close to the EUR 100/MWh target that some industry players have set for themselves to achieve by 2020. The cost reduction has been, and will be, achieved via not just technological innovation, but the increasingly closer collaboration between the supply chain to smooth out processes and gain efficiencies as experience grows in this young and emerging industry.