Last year, 86 % of the 24.5 GW of new generating capacity
installed in the EU came from renewable energy sources,
specifically from wind, solar, biomass and hydro, breaking the
previous record of 79% in 2014. This new water mark makes clear
that the EU is seeking to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by
replacing fossil fuel plants with new forms of renewable energy in
line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
For the first time, wind overtake coal in terms of capacity as
wind energy was the most installed power generation source in 2016,
representing a 51 % of all the new installed power capacity of the
EU. Of the new 12.5 GW of wind power, 10.9 GW was installed onshore
while 1.6 GW added offshore.
According to figures published by the WindEurope trade group,
wind energy grew 8 percent in 2016 reaching 153.7 GW and now
accounts for 17% of Europe’s total installed power generation
capacity. Only natural gas generation, with 186 GW of capacity,
remains above wind.
Interestingly, in relation to wind power generation, not every
country is following the same path. Germany has installed 44% of
Europe's new wind capacity last year, having three times more
wind power than any country of the EU. Following a similar trend,
France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland and Lithuania all set
records for new windfarm installations. In contrast, Spain,
Portugal, Italy and Greece, which together drove much of the growth
of windfarms in the 2000s decade, now account for a small
percentage of new wind installations. It is also worth highlighting
the position in Poland, which last year passed a law establishing a
limit of how close wind turbines can be to buildings, which
produced a stalling effect in the wind industry.
Although wind power has overtaken coal as the EU's
second-largest potential source of energy (coal having 152 GW of
capacity, after member states decommissioned 7.5 GW of coal
capacity in 2016) due to the technology's intermittent nature,
wind power hasn't yet overtaken coal share in total power
Notwithstanding the above, there is still a long way to go for
wind power in the EU as its total installed capacity sums up only
to 153.7 GW out of the region's 918.8 GW of total power
capacity. According to various commentators in the wind sector, the
industry is hoping much of its growth will come from filling the
gap as governments force old coal power plants to close in order to
meet climate change goals.
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