Renewable energy sources – including wind, solar, biomass and hydro – made up nearly 90% of the new power added to Europe’s electricity grids last year, with wind energy overtaking coal as the continents’ second largest form of power capacity.
According to data from trade body WindEurope, 21.1GW (86%) of the 24.5GW of new capacity built across the EU in 2016 came from renewable sources, surpassing 2014’s previous high of 79%.
Wind farms accounted for more than half of the capacity installed in 2016, though due to the intermittent nature of wind technology coal still meets more of Europe’s electricity demand.
Despite 2016’s impressive figures demonstrating Europe’s rapid shift away from fossil fuels, industry leaders have raised concerns about a lack of political support forecast beyond 2020 – when binding EU renewable energy targets will come to an end.
“The EU is not putting much pressure on countries to close down old coal power plants,” said Giles Dickson, chief executive of WindEurope.
Despite Europe’s installed wind power capacity currently standing at 153.7GW, the amount of power produced is relatively small in comparison to the regions’ 918.8GW total capacity.
Total wind farm investment in Europe hit a height of €27.5bn (£23bn) in 2016, with a surge in expensive off-shore wind farms providing a much-needed boost – including ones located around Britain as well as the Netherlands’ Gemini and Westermeerwind projects and Germany’s Gode Wind 1 and 2 sites.
“The installation numbers for now look OK, and the investment number is very good,” said Dickson.
“But on the longer term outlook, only seven out of the EU’s 28 countries have clear policies and volumes [for wind power] in place for the period beyond 2020,” he said, explaining that the wind power industry will be lobbying Europe’s capitals for more support in the national energy and climate plans which every EU member state must submit by the end of 2017.
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