Onshore and offshore wind
The EU has been an early mover on renewable energy and is committed to becoming the global leader in renewables. Wind power has played in an important part behind this success and it will be key for achieving the EU’s renewable energy targets and making EU carbon-neutral by 2050.
Wind is a clean, free and abundant energy source that is used to generate electricity, as wind turbines capture the kinetic energy created by airflows to power a generator supplying an electric current. Several wind turbines are typically configured into windfarms that can cover several square kilometres of land or sea to harness both onshore and offshore wind.
Continued improvements in manufacturing and turbine design, as well as improved capacity factors, have driven down the costs of wind power and confirmed its position as a key driver of the clean energy transition.
In addition, the wind sector is a significant contributor to the European economy in terms of boosting growth and creating long-term sustainable jobs. The sector provided 356,700 full time jobs in the EU in 2017, out of the estimated 1.45 million people working in the renewables sector as a whole.
In some Member States, permitting processes can be an obstacle to renewable energy projects in general, and of wind power in particular. To address the issue, the revised Renewable Energy Directive (2018/2001/EU) includes provisions that simplify permitting processes. This will help set in motion renewable energy projects, while taking into account legitimate concerns of citizens and respecting environmental standards.
Renewable energy communities
The revised renewable energy directive places a strong emphasis on citizens while also making it easier for them to consume and produce renewable energy.
By introducing provisions on renewable energy communities, the directive gives citizens the possibility to jointly engage in renewable energy projects, like windfarms. Empowering citizens in the clean energy transition may also help increase the local acceptance of renewable energy projects.
Offshore wind in the EU
The EU has contributed significantly to wind power development through ambitious policies and investments and is today a global leader in manufacturing in the sector, particularly for the offshore market
- EU companies have invaluable experience by being first movers - the first offshore wind farm was installed in Vindeby, Denmark, in 1991
- three out of the top five global turbine manufacturers on the offshore market are based in Europe
- European companies represent an impressive 90% of the offshore global market.
In order to bring offshore wind into deeper waters and explore sites with higher and more constant wind speeds, several European developers work on floating offshore wind turbines. The first pilot projects are in operation and the deployment is expected to accelerate towards the end of this decade.
To harness the full energy potential of offshore wind in the North Seas and foster cooperation between the countries in the region, the EU is also part of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC).
Offshore wind power needs by 2050
The European Commission estimates between 240 and 450 GW of offshore wind power is needed by 2050 to keep temperature rises below 1.5°C. Electricity will represent at least 50% of the total energy mix in 2050 and 30% of the future electricity demand will be supplied by offshore wind.
The EU is committed to drive offshore wind development and explore the potential of offshore wind in Europe’s seas and along its coasts while respecting the ecological limits of natural resources and the interests of other sea users. In November 2020, a new EU strategy on offshore renewable energy was published as part of the European Green Deal.
Guidance document on wind energy developments and EU nature legislation C(2020)7730 final
Revised Renewable Energy Directive 2018/2001/EU
Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC
Special report: IEA offshore wind outlook 2019