The 858 MW of wind capacity installed in 2020 will not allow Belgium to achieve carbon neutrality objectives for 2050, believes Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope.
A keen observer of the sector, WindEurope, the European wind energy federation, has done the accounts. 2020 will have been a record year for electricity produced by wind and Belgium is not for nothing. In figures, the Kingdom will have added 858 MW of wind capacity to its electricity system. In this way, the country climbs to eighth place on the continent’s charts.
But here, it is above all the development of offshore wind power that Belgium can be proud of. Indeed, with 706 MW installed, the Kingdom is the second country in Europe to have connected the most offshore wind capacity last year, behind the Netherlands. However, onshore wind is lagging behind, as in many other Member States.
This observation, the CEO of WindEurope regrets. Giles Dickson also expanded on the issue during a discussion around the development of the sector on the continent. And the conclusion is final: even if the figures are on the rise, they are still far from allowing us to return to the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050. Explanations.
Was 2020 a good year for European wind power?
Europe installed 14.7 GW of new wind capacity in 2020, 6% less than in 2019 and 19% less than we expected before the pandemic. 80% of these new installations relate to onshore wind power. Also, wind power represented 16% of the electricity consumed in 2020 in the Union and the United Kingdom. Europe therefore now has a wind power capacity of 220 GW.
“There is no country today, not only in Europe, but in the whole world that has as much offshore wind power as Belgium, if you consider its total exclusive economic zone.”
What about Belgium?
Belgium built 858 MW of new wind capacity last year. The most of it was offshore wind (706 MW). Today there is no country, not only in Europe, but in the whole world that has as much offshore wind power as Belgium, if we consider its total exclusive economic zone.
This, of course, was made possible by the completion of the offshore wind farms Seamade and Northwester 2. This brings Belgium to 2.5 GW of installed capacity for offshore wind. It was a very good year in this regard, to the point of raising the Belgium second among the countries having installed the most wind turbines at sea last year.
“Europe is not developing renewable energies at the pace necessary to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.”
The government aims to reach 4 GW by 2030 and, according to our estimates, the total potential capacity of the Belgian coast is 6 GW by 2050. The country is therefore on the right track. . Now that the parks are complete, there will be a lull until the deployment of the new Princess Elizabeth area in the western part of the coast.
In parallel, Belgium has developed 252 MW on land, which is far from enough. Note that at the end of 2019, wind energy represented 10% of all electricity consumption in the country. In 2020, this share rose to 14%.
Are these figures aligned with the European objectives for decarbonising the economy?
For the continent, in the current state of things, no. Europe is not developing renewable energies at the necessary pace to achieve the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050. Europe is not even developing renewable energies at the rate required to achieve the current energy objectives of 2030.
In Belgium, on the other hand, the objectives relating to the development of offshore wind energy are aligned. The problem lies in that of wind power earthly. The National Energy-Climate Plan foresees that the country will reach 19 GW of wind capacity by 2030. And at the current rate of things, we think that the best we can hope for is around 15 GW. It’s not sufficient.
“The rules and procedures for authorizing new wind farms are too complex.”
What are the main obstacles to the development of wind energy?
The main obstacle is that rules and procedures for authorizing new wind farms are too complex. There are not enough people in the public administration working on processing permit applications. Therefore, delays in obtaining permits are far too long. And the longer this period, the greater the development risk that the developer has to bear. The more expensive the project, the more wind energy becomes for society.
Also, this deters investors and developers from building new wind farms because they consider that the risk of the development of the project is too high. These problems affect both the development of onshore and offshore wind farms.