The state and prospects for Europe’s wind energy sector after COVID-19
20.07.2020 WindEurope has published a new report “The impact of COVID-19 on Europe’s wind sector”. The experts of the European wind energy association analyzed how the ongoing global pandemic affected the new installations, auction schedules, financing and electricity production in the first half of 2020.
The sector has faced major setbacks in the first half of the year, but the number of wind turbine installations was comparable to previous years, and the financing of new wind farms reached €14,3 billion. The global and European wind industry supply chains have faced serious disruptions, especially in the production and assembly of wind turbine components and the imports of subcomponents mainly from Asia. As a response to the COVID-19 threat, European factories have experienced temporary closures, especially in the countries affected the most such as Italy and Spain. Other facilities have sent many workers on quarantine. As WindEurope notes, these measures have negatively impacted the operation and maintenance of wind turbines as well as the commissioning rates of onshore and offshore wind farms.
“The first half of 2020 was anything but business as usual. Europe implemented unprecedented measures to counter the health crisis which affected all areas of the economy. But wind remained resilient. Our turbines produced a record amount of electricity. National governments held competitive auctions. And our industry continued to build new wind farms applying strict health and safety protocols,” says Pierre Tardieu, Chief Policy Officer at WindEurope.
The total installed capacity of Europe’s wind farms during the first six months was 5,1 GW. Onshore installations were just over the average of the previous three years, offshore were lower. Germany had the most installations, followed by France and Spain.

The experts emphasize that Europe needs to install 20 GW per year to stay on track for the European Green Deal. Although the second half of the year usually comes with more installations, reaching WindEurope’s initial forecast is now unlikely.

COVID-19 also affected electricity demand and generation in the first semester. Electricity demand in most European countries dropped as much as 25% during the worst period (mid-March to mid-May). In this challenging context wind produced 241 TWh of electricity covering 17% of Europe’s electricity demand. 

“Wind energy remained a critical and reliable power supplier, ensuring energy security throughout these very challenging times. This should give us the confidence to accelerate the urgent transition towards climate neutrality”, says Pierre Tardieu.

For project financing, despite the challenging economic environment, the first half of 2020 saw a record €14.3bn raised for the financing of new wind farms. Offshore wind energy had a particularly strong half year with €11bn of the financing raised. Onshore wind financing fell to €3.3bn from €4.9bn in the first half of 2019.

The record in the financing of new wind energy projects is an encouraging trend, say the experts. It demonstrates investor’s appetite in wind energy projects which offer reliable, long-term revenues.

“Investors doubled down on wind in the 1st semester in spite of very challenging economic conditions. This is a clear signal: wind is the right bet to build back better. Investing in wind means creating jobs here in Europe, boosting economic activity, and building a more resilient energy system. Let’s make sure Europe’s massive recovery efforts now strengthen the wind value chain, and accelerate the buildout of electricity grids and all the infrastructure we need to deliver climate neutrality”, says Pierre Tardieu.

During the EU summit which took place in Brussels on July, 17, The European Council agreed on a €750bn recovery plan in line with the objectives of the Green Deal. 30% of all spending will be earmarked for green investments in electrification, renewables, storage, hydrogen production and other activities that will boost value chains and position Europe as a leader on green technologies and climate protection. To access the recovery fund, Member States need to submit National Recovery and Resilience Plans to the EU Commission by April 2021. The plans should set out investment and reform priorities in line with the long-term target of climate neutrality by 2050.

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