EU adding wind farms at record pace, enabling accelerated coal phase-out

The EU added 17GW of new wind in 2023, marking a record year, according to new industry data. The accelerated build-out of renewables is prompting some nations to bring forward plans to end coal-fired electricity generation.


EU adding wind farms at record pace, enabling accelerated coal phase-out

Pictured: Onshore wind turbines, Germany

Renewable energy industry body WindEurope confirmed the milestone year for 2023 on Monday (15 January.

According to its latest data, EU-27 nations built and connected 14GW of onshore wind capacity and 3GW of offshore wind capacity in 2023, for a total of 17GW of new wind farms. This marked an uplift on the 2022 total of 16GW.

WindEurope also tracked an improvement in the efficiency of wind farms during 2023, with more electricity produced for each GW of capacity installed. The body has attributed this partially to changes in regulation and legislation that are easing grid infrastructure woes and reducing curtailment.

Wind accounted for almost one-fifth (19%) of the EU’s electricity generation mix in 2023. Renewables more broadly accounted for 44% of the mix.

WindEurope expects the positive trends it has observed to accelerate in the coming years as the EU enacts the European Wind Charter. This will be necessary if the bloc is to have any hope of achieving its 2030 targets of exceeding 40% renewables in the overall energy mix and reducing total emissions by at least 55% on 1990 levels.

Signed off shortly before Christmas 2023, the European Wind Charter compels nations to simplify the planning and permitting process for onshore and offshore wind and to take a more holistic view to building out key infrastructure.

The Charter also includes ambitions to grow Europe’s own turbine supply chain, and sets out how and why nations should re-assess the design of their auction schemes in light of industry trends including supply chain challenges. The UK has already raised the maximum strike price for wind projects in its own Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction scheme to address rising supply chain costs in the industry, which resulted in no offshore wind project bids at the most recent CfD round.

King coal no more

The data from WindEurope comes hot on the heels of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) major annual report on the state of the global renewable energy sector.

The Agency estimates that European nations will collectively add 23GW of new wind each year between 2024 and 2028 – a significant uplift on current levels.

This would feed in to a 2.5-fold increase in global installed capacity for renewables by 2028, against current levels, the IEA is predicting.

For its forecast to come to fruition, the Agency is urging policymakers in developed nations to overcome short-termism in policymaking and make interventions to shore up the sector against current economic challenges.

Even without these changes, nations are feeling increasingly confident in phasing coal down and out. EU member state Slovakia announced over the weekend that it will end coal-fired power generation by the end of this year, whereas it had previously set a 2030 coal ban date.

Slovakia has one remaining coal plant, the 220MW Vojany plant, after its second plant closed last month. This will close later this year.

Beyond Fossil Fuels campaigner Alexandru Mustață called the news “the latest example of the waning role of coal in Europe, as countries rapidly seek renewable alternatives to this expensive, dirty fossil fuel”.

The campaign group is now urging Slovakia not to fall back on coal for heating.

Similarly, Poland is set to propose a hard end-date for coal-fired power generation by the middle of 2024. The nation’s new Government announced this intention as part of its backing for a 90% emissions reductions target for 2040, also supported by Denmark.

Poland generates 70% of its electricity and two-thirds of its heating for homes from coal at present.

Related news: European nations including France and Germany pledge clean power systems by 2035

Comments (2)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Let us never forget that wind energy comes to us at the whim of nature.
    It may be highly variable over short time spans, making it essential that back-up generation is always on tap. This feature is that which makes gas turbines so very useful.
    Nuclear does not come on stream as quickly, but just keeps going, bit of a bulldog!
    Tidal and solar are similarly outside our bailiwick.
    Ah me!

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    I read the intention of Poland to end coal fired generation very quickly; is there any indication of a replacement power source?
    Perhaps 2024 is a mistaken date???

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