Long term planning benefits all

Denmark installed their first wind turbines in the 1970s when the global oil crisis shocked the import dependant nation into searching for new energy solutions. So it should not come as much of a surprise that almost 40 years on the country has set a new record for energy production from wind achieving 39% of its total electricity generation in 2014 putting the Scandinavian country well on  its way of attaining its target of 50% of its power from renewables by 2020 .

Denmark’s achievement adds to the 2014 renewable energy generation records of Germany and the UK and further ascertains Europe as a leading force in energy generation from wind power. In the UK wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25% of households in 2014 — a 15% increase from 2013. In December, Germany set a new record by generating more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month.

The rise in Denmark’s renewable energy production can be partially attributed to the addition of approximately 100 new offshore turbines and from these in January 2014 the coastal country generated over 60% of its power from wind. A hike of 300% on its production levels of 10 years previous.

“We have set a one-of-a-kind world record,” said Denmark’s Climate and Energy Minister Rasmus Helveg Petersen. “And it shows that we can reach our ultimate goal, namely to stop global warming.”

Whilst a country the size of Denmark may struggle to end global warming even if was to reduce its emissions to zero it does have the long term target of being fossil fuel free by 2050 which is one of the most ambitious national targets from greenhouse gas reduction.  They have a goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 40% by 2020 compared to 1990. Currently they are on track to reduce emissions by at least 37%.

By increasing its wind power potential plus converting heat pumps and power plants to use biomass the Ministry of Climate, Energy, and Building expects Demark to achieve over 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, in 2000 its share was only 16%. However Brian Vad Matheisen, professor of energy planning at Aalborg University has stated that in order to truly overall the country’s energy generation systems it needs to switch its heat pumps from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

At present when the wind generates a surplus of energy any excess is sold to neighbouring countries. By moving the heating sector to energy from renewable sources energy companies would have an outlet for any surplus generated which will go a long way in assisting reaching the targets set.

Denmark also benefits from its early investment in wind power developments economically. It has become a leading manufacturer of wind turbines with major companies such as Siemens and Vestas based there. At present nine out of ten offshore turbines are manufactured in Denmark.

Staying in Europe and Germany’s renewable industry celebrated a further milestone this week as new report stated that the country’s offshore wind industry now has more than 1GW of capacity. The report by Deutsche WindGuard stated that by the end of 2014 Germany had 258 offshore turbines providing 1,049.2MW of generation capacity. Also in 2014 the offshore wind generation capacity more than doubled with 142 new turbines with a capacity of 528.9MW connecting to the grid last year. The capacity is also expected to double again in 2015 with the report confirming that a further 285 turbines with a capacity of 1.3GW have already been installed and await grid connection with foundations for another 220 turbines already completed.

Commenting on the report Norbert Giese, chairman of VDMA Power Systems steering committee from the offshore wind industry and board member of the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation said “Out at sea we have now officially broken through the gigawatt barrier for installed capacity. This corresponds to an investment volume of around €4bn. In addition, turbine, foundation and grid technology exports are also in the billion-euro range. In 2015 we are expecting up to 2GW of offshore wind capacity to be newly connected to the grid. By the end of 2015, we will see a total of some 3 gigawatts installed capacity online, which corresponds to an investment of €10bn euros in the domestic market of the German offshore wind industry.”

President of the German Wind Energy Association BWE Hermann Albers said the report confirmed the strength of Germany’s offshore wind industry but cautioned that government clarification of long-term policy was essential to its continued growth and success.

“The offshore technology, which has great potential for realising the energy transition and ensuring security of supply in Germany, is on the edge of a decisive breakthrough,” he said. “More than ever, a reliable legal framework is decisive for the future development. Only when investment security is ensured, it will be possible to fully exploit the cost reduction potential, maintain Germany’s leading technological position, and harness export success on a growing global market. It is therefore task of the German government to urgently provide a solid and fair legal framework for the electricity market of the future.”

This was countered by a statement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the German Renewable Energy Federation (BFE) in which she stated that she would prioritise plans for a new transmission infrastructure from the renewable energy developments in the north of the country to the industrial heartlands of the south. She also stated that she was wary of potential policies for a capacity mechanism which could bail-out loss making fossil fuel power plants.

Last year the German government revealed new policies aimed at accelerating its Energiewende transition through increased investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency measures and electric vehicles. Government ministers are also considering a raft of new policies created to ensure that adequate power remains on the grid as a number of outdated fossil fuel power plants are forced to shut down for decommissioning.

As previously mentioned the renewable energy industry in the UK also had a record year in 2014 however we are in danger of being left behind. As our European neighbours continue to build upon the success of 2014, due to a lack of clear government policy the industry in the UK is beginning to show signs of stagnating.  Now is not the time to drag our heels. Our energy needs are only going to increase and at the same time we must set about making a real difference in reducing our carbon emissions.

Renewable energy and in particular wind power is only one factor in achieving this but it is now at an advanced stage in terms of technology and as a result costs are tumbling. Further investment in transmission and storage are essential to reaching our targets by this method and this should be maintained by progressive government policy. Our goals are achievable and the rewards will benefit the entire nation but to do so both the government and the industry must work together positively. In the long term, it will be worth it.

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