At the opening of Europe’s wind energy event, EWEA 2013, Arthouros Zervos, President of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) criticised “sudden or retroactive changes to support schemes” and warned “the wind industry can be a driver for growth, for jobs and exports but not if government policies drive away investors.”

Politicians and high level industry representatives also spoke of the need to secure the further growth of wind energy in Europe after the current 2020 renewable energy target runs out.

Zervos told the assembled industry leaders and Ministers that “the wind industry is suffering serious job losses, and will suffer more difficulties this year” and called for “binding renewable energy targets for 2030” as a way to create investor confidence.

He added that the year ahead would be tough for the industry, but pointed out that the long-term prospects are “very bright”, with European Commission scenarios showing wind energy as the leading power technology by 2050.

International Energy Agency (IEA) chief economist Fatih Birol said that global fossil fuel subsidies, worth $523bn (£332bn) in 2011, are providing an incentive to emit CO2 equivalent to $110 per tonne, whereas he showed global renewable subsidies to be $88bn in 2011.

He described fossil fuel subsidies as “public enemy number one” and acknowledged that the unpredictability of government policy was a major problem for industry.

“Many are the challenges that the European wind industry will face at the domestic level, which require attention now: EU energy policy after 2020, the further development of electricity infrastructure, the competitiveness and integration of wind energy in the electricity market, are among the most pressing” said CEO of Enel Green Power and chair of EWEA 2013, Francesco Starace.

“Furthermore, for preparing a proper future the present should be adequately dealt with, and therefore, for reaching the 2020 targets, EU Member States have to guarantee efficient and reliable renewable energy policies” added Starace.

He also contrasted “the current downturn of the European economy” with “very interesting potential for renewable energy and in particular for wind in eastern Europe and the Balkans, the Mediterranean basin, and emerging markets like central and south America and Asia.

“The expertise developed in decades of European industry leadership needs to be used exploring business opportunities at the periphery of, as well as outside, the Old Continent,” he added.

Irish Energy Minister and current President of the EU Energy Council Pat Rabbitte said: “There are challenges facing the wind sector but the growth in wind in recent years shows that the European policy environment has provided a sound basis for investment. For the period beyond 2020, I believe one thing is clear: renewable energy will continue to play a significant role and we can plan for it and invest in it on a “no regrets” basis.”

European Parliament vice president Anni Podimata told the conference “renewable energy and especially wind energy could and should play a key role – as champions – in the efforts for a sustainably growing and competitive EU.”

She called for “more determination on renewables” and said this “will be clearly demonstrated through a new binding target for renewables by 2030.”

Leigh Stringer

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