Despite COVID-19-related disruptions in the construction processes of wind farms in the first months of the year, the wind energy sector has proven to be strong and resilient in the face of the crisis, German MEP Manuela Ripa told New Europe on December 3.

“In the middle of an economic shock, the sector still witnessed a record €14.3 billion raised for the financing of new wind farms in the first half of 2020. This shows clearly that wind energy is not only something we need to reach our climate goals by 2050 – it is also a very robust and future-proof sector, Ripa said, who is a member of the European Parliament in the group of the Greens/EFA, representing the Ecological Democratic Party from Germany.

According to Ripa, whose focus lies on climate, environment, biodiversity and consumer protection, as well as animal welfare, a total of 30% of the €750 billion Recovery Fund are set to be invested into the battle climate change. “And the wind energy sector will play a central role in this regard: It will be one of the strongholds to support the European Energy sector, when we scale back on fossil fuels. As has been noted in the EU Commission’s Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy, especially the offshore wind sector has vast potential to set global standards: It will generate new green jobs and create new opportunities for industry,” Ripa said.

Environment and biodiversity protection

“In all these promising efforts however, we must not overlook the protection of our environment and biodiversity when installing wind farms, both onshore and off-shore: We cannot be blind on one eye, just because we want to look through the other,” the German MEP stressed.

Her comments come as WindTV at WindEnergy Hamburg on December 1-4 looks at how wind can deliver the Green Deal and help drive economic recovery. In its recent report, “Wind energy and economic recovery in Europe”, WindEurope showed how wind energy delivers economic benefits both at macro and community level. Each new wind turbine installed in Europe generates on average €10 billion of economic activity, WindEurope said. And wind energy is 300,000 jobs in Europe and contributes €37 billion to EU GDP. If European governments deliver on their 2030 plans this will rise to 450,000 jobs and €50 billion.

The European Union wants wind to be half of Europe’s electricity by 2050, which entails a huge expansion in onshore and offshore wind between now and then.

Asked how can it contribute to the EU Green Deal and how can it fit in National Energy Plans of member states, including Germany, Ripa told New Europe, “To fulfil the promise made under the Green Deal, we must urgently phase out fossil fuels and invest heavily into renewables – wind energy being a crucial element here: In 2020, when the energy demand fell due to COVID-19, renewable sources accounted for 40% of the EU’s electricity, with wind energy contributing the biggest share. And even before the electricity demand dropped, wind energy contributed a record share to the EU’s power grid in the first months of 2020”.

According to Ripa, in order to become an effective part of the Green Deal though, the whole value-chain of wind energy will have to be climate-neutral: Components of wind turbines should have a low carbon-footprint, which means that the EU needs to support the production of green steel in Europe, produced with renewable energy.

“As such a transition is costly, we should adapt the funding frameworks. I have already suggested to the EU Commission to develop a new strategy for state aid, to allow the extra costs for companies to be covered by a support to the operating expenses (OPEX),” the German MEP said.

Green hydrogen

“An expansion of wind energy goes also hand in hand with Germany’s National Energy and Climate Plan, which aims for 65% of renewable energy in 2050. Wind will be a major contributor here, but also green hydrogen, which is important for some heavy industries,” Ripa said, adding that wind energy and hydrogen are linked, as renewable hydrogen is produced by electrolysis from renewable sources – such as wind. “In other words: Wind energy will not only contribute to the EU Green Deal by being a renewable energy source itself, it will be one of the defining elements in creating further renewable sources, such as green hydrogen,” Ripa said.

At the ministerial opening session, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson , during a WindTV session with WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson, reminded that WindEnergy Hamburg is taking place almost two weeks after the adoption of the EU Offshore Renewable Strategy. “We have set our sights on 300 GW of offshore wind and 40 GW of ocean energy across all our sea basins by 2050. And in the next ten years alone we want to increase offshore wind capacity by at least five times – 60 Gigawatts. Scaling up and bringing large volumes of renewable energy will fundamentally change our renewable energy sector,” Simson said.

According to the Commissioner, the EU is focusing even more strongly on offshore because there is a greater potential and wind power will be key in reaching the EU’s climate goals. “The European track record is excellent,” she said and added, “We are global technological leaders and the price of renewable energy in Europe is steadily falling and we’re determined to maintain that position”.

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