Better grid interconnection essential for wind energy growth in Europe


Courtesy of Courtesy of Energy Institute (EI)

With a dramatic fall-off in government support for wind power in one of its superpower countries, Spain, Europe’s wind industry is concerned. Marc Height reports from Barcelona.

From a wind industry leader to a focus of concern for the industry in Europe, things have changed in Spain pretty quickly.

In January, the country made headlines by becoming the first in the world to source the majority of its electricity from wind power. Things then took a turn for the worse for the Spanish wind industry towards the end of February, when the government decided to dramatically, and retroactively, alter its support structure for wind power in a period of continued fiscal difficulty.

This gave an interesting context for the 2014 biennial European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) Conference, which was held in Barcelona.

At the conference two Spanish wind trade associations – APPA, the Spanish Renewable Energy Association and AEE, the Spanish Wind Energy Association, expressed their dismay at the Spanish government decision. They were joined on a united front by representatives from the French wind association FEE, the German Wind Energy Association and RenewableUK.

Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, described the events as ‘very disturbing’. ‘The eyes of the world are focused on Spain now,’ she said. ‘It is nothing short of madness to pull out of backing this horse at this stage.’

‘The decision in Spain is not based on rationality but ideology,’ said Thomas Becker, CEO of EWEA. ‘But the wind industry will prevail, and we have a big future ahead of us… politicians talk about growth and the ability to export technologies. Well with wind energy it’s here, they just need to come and get it.’

Representatives from the Spanish government were conspicuous by their absence at the conference. Secretary of State for Energy from neighbouring Portugal, Artur Trindade, was present instead, offering his support for the wind industry. Portugal has a strong wind portfolio and relies on the technology to produce a lot of its electricity (see page 34).

Portugal is currently campaigning for not three, but four specific EU-wide 2030 targets. Adding a fourth, a target for interconnectors, alongside those for emissions, renewables and efficiency, is something that Trindade spoke passionately about. He advocated a 25% target for interconnectors in Europe, meaning that a quarter of a country’s power could be exported if needed. Enabling better connections over the Pyrenees for example, to allow a better trade of renewable energy between Spain and France, could help the situation in Portugal – which has limited means of exporting excess power.

‘We have to stop thinking about energy just as Portugal,’ said Trindade. ‘If we don’t stop thinking about energy policy in a national way, we will fail to hit our targets.’

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