Wind sector: R&D essential to create platform for growth for Europe

"European research efforts should be focused on those technologies where Europe is strong"

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) - called last week for an increase in wind energy R&D spending under the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for research and development (FP7), and the establishment of a Wind Energy Technology Platform in order to continue its track record of cost reductions and maintain European technology leadership in wind energy. "European research efforts should be focused on those technologies where Europe is strong. R&D is a crucial factor in reaching full cost competitiveness with other power sources, and goes hand-in-hand with reaping further economies of scale through increased market volumes," said Corin Millais CEO of EWEA. "Europe is in pole position with wind energy technology, but there is a risk that we may fall behind unless significant support to long-term and short-term R&D is included in the forthcoming European research programme FP7.

The cost of generating wind power has decreased by some 80% since the first modern wind turbines were installed in the beginning of the 1980s. The sector estimates that some 40% of the cost reductions achieved over the past two decades can be contributed to improved technology through R&D. Scale economies in production, a function of market volume, has been the other large contributor. At present, the European wind industry leads the world with an 83% world market share. Long-term commitment from EU and national R&D programmes, combined with close cooperation between industry and research institutions, has been a principal contributor to Europe’s dominant position in wind turbine technology and the wind power industry R&D in general. However, European leadership in wind energy is challenged by foreign competitors getting increasingly aware of the substantial growth potential of the sector.

Support for wind energy R&D under the current EU framework programme, FP6, was severely restricted, and funding for long-term research was initially completely removed. "We are witnessing a paradigm shift in wind energy research. From having been a ‘knowledge borrower’ in the early years of development, the sector is increasingly becoming a provider of basic research knowledge to other sectors in the economy. Developing offshore wind technology alone will require substantial knowledge generation for many years to come; both in the form of long term basic research and short term research applying the knowledge in today’s energy systems", said Millais. The European wind energy sector calls on the European Commission to facilitate the establishment of a wind energy technology platform. Such a platform would ensure an efficient use of the funds applied by facilitating collaboration between the wind energy sector, other stakeholders, the European institutions and Member States. "The wind sector is a growing success story, but we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Europe is in the lead and we should make sure that we stay ahead of the pack. A wind energy technology platform would be a central tool to secure this," said Millais.

Political support for a Wind Energy Platform has been expressed by the Energy Council, the Informal Competitiveness Council and in the Member States’ Egmond Declaration from last year’s EU Policy Workshop on Development of Offshore Wind Energy. In December 2004, EU Energy Commissioner Piebalgs stated that 1 "The Commission is concerned by the decreasing trend of the RTD spending in the field of renewable energy sources these last twenty years both 1 (written question: E-2459/04) (16 December 2004) at the national and European levels. If this trend is not reversed by a substantial increase of funding in the future, it could hamper the progress of renewable energies in the EU energy mix". "Wind energy can contribute significantly to all the goals set out in Lisbon: sustainable economic growth, high quality jobs, technology development, global competitiveness, and European industrial and research leadership", said Corin Millais.

Specifically, the European wind sector calls for:

1. The establishment of a Wind Energy Technology Platform that would address research and development as well as policy issues related to market development, such as overcoming grid barriers and administrative barriers in order to reap further economies of scale and bring down costs. The industry requests the assistance of the European Commission as facilitator in this process.

2. Following dramatically reduced funding for wind energy R&D under FP6, EWEA calls for wind energy to be reinstated as a priority research area under FP7 within a new "Renewable Energy Systems" budget line, replacing the existing "Sustainable Energy Systems" chapter, which includes so-called "clean coal technologies and hydrogen and absorb large parts of the renewable energy R&D funding.

3. To increase transparency, the technologies included in a new "Renewable Energy Systems" budget line should follow the definition of renewables as stated in the Renewables Directive. Within this reformed chapter, in order to ensure that adequate funding is dedicated to European wind energy R&D, EWEA calls for the establishment of a separate Chapter for Wind Energy.
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
BWEA, EWEA, wind energy, renewable energy, wind power, wind farm, wind turbine, rotor-blade, offshore, onshore

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