Daily Management Review

Europe Is Throwing Money To The Wind And The Sun


European countries are increasingly promoting abandonment of traditional fuels and switch to alternative energy sources. This is primarily obliged to factors such as the desire reduce harmful gas emissions into the atmosphere.

The tendency to increase the renewable energy’s share in Europe materialized into government subsidies for solar and wind power. The idea of an environmentally friendly fuel is being actively promoted not only within Europe, but also beyond its borders, reaching developing countries.

Yet, if we talk about renewable energy as a whole, the decline in investment in the sector was observed in Europe in 2015.

According to data presented at Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, renewable energy investments last year amounted to $ 58.5 billion, which is 18% less than in 2014. This is also the lowest level since 2006.

Great Britain showed the best results: the country increased volume of investments by 24% to $ 23.4 billion.

In Germany, investment in "green" energy amounted to $ 10.6 billion, which is 42% lower than last year. France observed even greater drop in the subsidies: 53% to $ 2.9 billion.

But how do things stand in each sector and country?

Solar power

In 2015, European countries powered up around 8 GW of solar installations, according to SolarPower Europe, the solar energy sector associations in Europe.

Demand for solar installations in Europe has increased by 15% compared to the same period last year, compared with 6.95 GW of grid-connected installations in 2014.

"It's nice to see that the solar energy sector in Europe is growing again in 2015", - says James Watson, head of SolarPower Europe.

After reaching a maximum in 2011, demand for solar installations in Europe had been declining for three consecutive years.

Nevertheless, the growth of the solar industry in 2015 is primarily seen in the UK market, and the demand for solar systems in most European countries remained the same or even decreased.

Watson adds: "Solar energy needs clear signals from European policymakers in order to contribute to achievement of the environmental protection’s objectives, which was discussed at the Paris conference.

Today, solar energy is competitive for domestic and commercial use in most European countries. That is why investors need a reliable political environment for generation and storage of solar energy."

Annual volume of grid-connected solar installations has grown by more than 25%, to more than 50 GW in 2015 as compared to 40.1 GW in 2014.

SolarPower Europe provides a unique analysis of the solar energy market, as the organization has information about not just supply or solar installations quantity, but grid-connected plants as well.

The final data will be presented in March this year.

Wind energy

During 2015, European countries have installed wind farms with total capacity of 13 805.2 MW, which is 5.4% more than during the previous year. 12 800.2 MW of them account for the European Union.

Germany has become the 2015 market leader by the number of plants: total installed capacity amounted to 6 013.4 MW, of which 2 282.4 MW are on land (38% of the total amount of capacity installed in Germany).

Poland was second with a total of 1 266.4 MW, twice the 2014 volume.

France became the third, the total installed capacity amounted to 1 073.1 MW and the fourth is the United Kingdom with 975.1 MW, of which 59% are offshore wind installations.

In 2015, the power plants from renewable sources had 22.3 GW, that is, 77% of all capacity installed in the EU.

Since 2000, the net growth of wind energy (137 GW), gas (120 GW) and solar energy (93 GW) coincided with a decrease in the use of clean diesel fuel (39 GW), coal (32 GW) and nuclear power (2 GW).

Other renewable technologies (biomass, hydro, concentrated solar power, geothermal and so on) have also been increasing their volume during the last decade, yet at a pace slower than wind and solar sector.

2015 showed a significant difference between the countries.

For example, Germany has become a leader in the wind energy market.

One of the main factors behind the growth in this area is the country’s effective policies in support of renewable energy.

A similar situation was observed in Poland, where companies took advantage of the benefits offered by government support.

On the other hand, lack of political support and poor management have a negative impact on the industry. In particular, we are talking about Spain, which has a very strong market for renewable energy some time ago. However, because of the country’s inefficient policies, the number of new installations there fell almost to zero.

Wind energy sector has also been affected by the policy change in Romania.

Growth or Stagnation?

The European renewable energy supporters report about the industry’s success, noting the increase in capacity put into operation. In fact, if we look at the market in a broader time perspective, it appears that all is not that "sunny."

So, over the past few years, the European solar generation took over a huge shock of the economic crisis. According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), dynamics of input solar generating capacity in the EU looks like this: in 2010 - 12 GW, in 2011 - 21 GW, in 2012 - 16.75 GW, in 2013 - 11 GW, and in 2014 - 8 GW.

Above that, according to European Photovoltaic Industry Association’s estimates, EU solar energy sector in 2014 slipped by 36%, having introduced about 7 GW (in 2013, the data coincided with that of EWEA: 11 GW).

Yes, 2015 brought 15% more than 2014. It is possible to speak of the market’s slight recovery, however, given the decline in the sector investment, analysts prefer to speak of stagnation in the solar energy market.

The situation in the wind energy sector is more upbeat. Here, we can rise in countries such as Germany and Poland, mainly due to effective policies to support the sector.

If we look at this sector in a broader perspective, the overall situation is as follows: 2010 brought 9.3 GW, 2013 - 11.16 GW, and 2014 - 11.8 GW. In 2015, the capacity amounted to 12.8 GW, which is 6.3% more than in 2014.

However, some former leaders, such as Spain and Italy, accumulated problems here. In 2010, Spain ranked first in the EU by the new capacity introduction - 1.5 GW, and Italy was in fifth place with 948 MW.

Already in 2013, Spain introduced 27 MW, and Italy - 107.5 MW of new capacity. And in 2015, these countries were not even included in the top 5 leaders in the new capacities introduction.

By the way, one more European economic "champion" - Portugal - dipped from 363 MW to 184 MW during the same period.

The leader of last year - Germany - still holds the palm and promote wind energy, as a growth driver in this sector in Europe.