This is an extract from a recent paper “Blowing In The Wind: State Of Play And Projections For Offshore And Onshore Wind Energy In The EU” written by the WWF European Policy Office.

Since the beginning of the year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has outlined in its latest report that wind and solar sources of energy represent the biggest potential for decreasing CO2 emissions by 2030. In the vast majority of scenarios put forward by the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change (ESABCC), wind and solar are also depicted as the dominant source of energy for the future.

At the EU level, the REPowerEU plan and the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) have led to a new target for renewables of 42.5% by 2030. Other scenarios such as the Paris Agreement Compatible (PAC) energy scenario and Ember New Generation modelling propose higher targets, in line with WWF recommendations that the EU reach 50% by 2030, and 100% by 2040.

To achieve any of these goals, EU Member States need to overcome significant challenges, from the need to win local public support to expanding grid infrastructure, and speeding up permitting processes. These are particularly relevant to the wind sector, given its predominant role in the energy transition. Equally, while the deployment of wind energy needs to be massively accelerated, the transition towards 100% renewable energy should not come at the expense of nature or exploit any weakening of environmental legislation. And it must be well planned, involving EU citizens fully and effectively and ensuring that they benefit from the rapid transition in our energy system that is required.

Key figures:

• In 2022, wind supplied 16% of EU electricity demand, with 14% covered by onshore, and 2% by offshore installations.

• EU Member States currently have 16 GW of installed offshore capacity. They have pledged to have at least 116 GW by 2030, which at today’s consumption levels would be enough to supply 122 million European homes (62% of the EU total) with electricity.

• Onshore, there are 188 GW currently installed, and projections from the wind sector suggest this will reach 311 GW by 2030.

• These pledges and projections for 2030 would mean an increase of 625% compared to 2022 capacities for offshore wind, and for onshore an increase of 65%.

The state of play and future projections

The Paris Agreement Compatible (PAC) scenario for energy infrastructure is an EU energy scenario aligned with the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The PAC scenario consortium consists of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Renewable Grid Initiative (RGI), and REN21; and the PAC project has been developed by CAN and EEB, with the most recent modelling being done by Climact. It is based on three key objectives:

1. 100% renewable energy supply by 2040;

2. At least 65% greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reductions by 2030;

3. Net-zero emissions by 2040.

It is a demand reduction-led scenario, looking at the demand side (e.g. in the transport, industry and buildings sectors – including lifestyle changes) and matching the energy needed from the supply side. Given this approach, which assumes a dramatic decrease in energy demand, the figures in terms of renewable energy deployment needed are significantly lower for the same percentage level of overall renewable energy compared to other scenarios. For example the PAC scenario reaches 50.11% renewable energy in final energy demand in 2030 with absolute levels of wind power deployment not that dissimilar from other scenarios that only reach 40 or 45% renewable energy

The table below outlines, for each Member State, their current onshore, offshore, and total installed wind capacity, their 2030 ambitions, and the PAC scenario data, using the latter’s country-by-country analysis. Member States’ ambitions for total wind deployment by 2030 are compared to the PAC scenario data and are classified as follows:

GREEN = Member States that are aiming to deploy wind at roughly the scale of the PAC scenario (90% or more compared to PAC scenario); AMBER = Member States that are aiming to deploy less wind compared to the PAC scenario (70-90% compared to PAC scenario); RED = Member States that are aiming to deploy much less wind compared to the PAC scenario (less than 70% compared to PAC scenario).

Importantly, this rating relates purely to Member States stated ambitions for deployment of offshore and onshore wind. It does not assess how Member States will deliver on them, or whether they are on track to do so.

At the moment, the total wind capacity in EU-27 is around 204 GW (16 offshore, 188 onshore), and should reach 427 GW (116 offshore, 311 onshore) in 2030 if Member States achieve their currently planned levels of ambition.

• According to the PAC scenario modelling on a country-by-country basis, the total installed capacity of wind power needed in 2030 must reach 464.83 GW. Therefore, the current level of ambition of Member States would collectively deliver 91.86% of the wind deployment required in the PAC scenario.

• Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden aim to have roughly the scale of wind energy in 2030 foreseen in the PAC scenario.

• France, Greece, Luxembourg, and Spain aim to have wind at a scale of 70% to 90% of the level foreseen in the PAC scenario.

• Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia aim to have less than 70% of the wind energy foreseen in the PAC scenario.

On the offshore side, commitments from Member States (and hence overall EU projected deployment) have skyrocketed in the last few years, notably following the increased cooperation between countries, emphasised by the five sea basin non-binding agreements of early 2023. The expectations went from the 60 GW announced by the Commission in its 2020 EU strategy on offshore renewable energy, to the 116 GW pledged by EU countries in 2023.

On the onshore side, despite wind being the cheapest energy source in many countries, similar cooperation between Member States has not happened yet. The historical regional sea conventions, the lack of physical borders compared to on land, and the fact that seas are not privately owned may all be factors that can explain this difference in terms of cooperation. Moving on from the Member State-level analysis, it is of interest to compare 2030 projections with the overall EU target for renewables, and also with more ambitious modelling scenarios, such as the PAC scenario and Ember New Generation modelling. Knowing the capacity factors used for both onshore and offshore in the different energy scenarios is essential to compare the figures.

The table below shows the Commission and WindEurope’s expectations for the wind sector to meet the 40% renewable energy target proposed in July 2021 by the Commission in the Fit-for-55 Package, and the 45% renewable target proposed by the Commission in May 2022 as part of the REPowerEU plan. It also shows WindEurope’s estimate of what would be required for a 42.5-43% renewable objective (aligned with the final 42.5% target agreed under the revision of the RED in 2023), and finally the levels of deployment in the PAC and Ember scenarios.

Key takeaways

Along with assumptions on energy demand reduction, assumptions on capacity factors have a big impact on the overall level of installed capacity required to meet any particular level of power production and hence renewable energy target. Higher CFs provided by new-generation turbines mean fewer GW of installed capacity are needed in such scenarios or projections in total to produce the same amount of energy. However, and especially for offshore turbines, depending on the scale of wind farms, lower CFs are observed due to atmospheric effects.

European Commission compared to WindEurope assessments:

• Based on the European Commission’s Impact Assessment drafted ahead of the launch of the Fit-for-55 Package, to achieve 40% renewable energy by 2030 it was estimated that the EU would need 453 GW of wind energy capacity (374 GW onshore and 79 GW offshore wind). According to the Commission’s assessments made after the publication of the REPowerEU plan, increasing the renewable energy target to 45% by 2030 would mean a revised ambition of 510 GW of total wind energy (an additional 57 GW).

• The Commission’s targets were calculated using CFs of 27% and 32% for onshore and offshore wind respectively, which, according to other sources, does not reflect current technology. In WindEurope’s assessment, CFs are now on average 35% for onshore and 45% for offshore turbines.

• Using these updated CFs, and their early 2022 assumption that the new RED target would be around 42.5 to 43%, WindEurope concluded that wind energy would need to contribute at the level of 423 GW, which is broadly consistent with the current 2030 EU Member State ambitions of 427 GW.

PAC scenario: PAC scenario figures vary between the country-by country and the EU level analyses. This can notably be explained by the difference in CF used.

• Looking at the PAC scenario modelling based on country-by-country CFs, current offshore wind projections (116 GW) are closer to the level identified to reach 50.11% renewables by 2030 (127.5 GW), compared to onshore wind projections (311 GW from Member States, and 395 from PAC scenario).

• However, the total amount of wind identified by the PAC scenario aggregate modelling at EU level is 522.5 GW, much higher than current Member State 2030 ambitions.

Access the complete report here