Europe Slips Up, Again, On Meeting Climate Goals

Highlights :

  • A report by WindEurope finds that the EU has invested least in 2022 since 2009 in offshore wind energy that lowers its dash for 2030 target.
  • The EU must take a line of actions for holistic expedition of offshore wind capacities.
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Two contrasting reports have dominated the renewable energy landscape of Europe this week: One, the European Union policymakers have agreed to double the renewable use by 2030 through massive RE installations. Two, a WindEurope report finds that Europe has invested lowest in offshore wind since 2009 in 2022, a mere EUR 17 billion in new wind energy projects; it invested EUR 41 billion in 2021.

In 2022, EU investments add a mere 16 GW. The investments made last year would construct just 10 GW over years. WindEurope holds that the EU needs to add at least 31 GW in the next five years to reach the 2030 target.

The proposition takes us to the conclusion that though Europe promises to increase its renewable energy uptake to restrict the climate change below 2 Degree Celsius pre industrial levels but its RePowerEU remains just a plan on the paper.

What is solar to India is offshore wind to Europe; the resource is immense. The report finds that there are many but ‘obvious’ reasons behind the sluggish offshore wind energy growth. It first points out the challenges that pertain to supply chain gaps. The group has not been able to fix this since the pandemic. There is a huge skill gap and most countries are yet to learn the art of partnering with local communities for the success of the wind projects. Geo-politics has its own role.

Why European Energy Transition Is Important For the World

If climate change has to be arrested then the energy transition of the European Union is a must. This emanates from the very fact that the per capita energy consumption in the EU is among the highest in the world.

The Ukraine-Russia conflict may be a triggering point for the EU geo-politically, but the real challenge is to avert the ongoing ravages of climate change that impacts all species. The ageing continent has shown a distinct aversion to taking hard calls, and is struggling with the resentment of people used to a quality of life that has unfortunately become unsustainable.

The drop in investment in offshore wind by the EU brings out the case for some introspection for the west. It’s actually the west that needs to ‘DO MORE’ and not the developing world whose per capita power consumption is significantly lower than that in developed countries.

Way Forward

It’s time for the EU policymakers to give some heed to the solutions offered by the World Economic Forum – a rich country’s forum – to expedite their renewable run. The Forum holds that the permitting process in most of Europe is simply too slow. They call for a single wind system for permissions in every country along with complete digitization to restore confidence of investors and developers.

Most European countries do not have deadlines for project completion. They can learn from the Indian Government that has announced blacklisting companies that miss renewable project deadlines.

India’s system of quick Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) systems have accelerated projects. It’s also important to harmonize public interest and compel the local bodies to quickly tender their consent. Take the case of China for example; the provincial governments and municipalities tender full cooperation for the national plans and contribute to early permission grants. Today China runs wind farms having a capacity of about 280-GW which is far more than what the entire EU operates today. After starting a decade after Europe did.

Wind projects do not get bank loans’ support in the EU. Banks have been obligated in India to consider renewable energy as one of the ‘primary lending areas’ that all banks must support. WEF also wants regulations to ease land procurement – that often take years for developers to begin their projects – and also for power procurement.

Many EU countries are yet to learn the art of community engagement for RE projects. Societal support unleashes ‘a virtuous cycle’ that causes quick go ahead to projects, skilling and job security for locals, and better management of installations as they have better knowledge of local conditions. The massive solar and wind farms in the interiors of Australia, that often export green energy, are built with the help of community engagement which provides democratic fairness, legitimacy and solves issues to place-based societies.

Africa, a neighbor continent just across a tiny straight. If Europe doesn’t set its house in order and transfers technology – along with capital – the climate catastrophe is imminent. How would the global institutions – mostly based out of the West – convince the poor African countries not to undertake economic development riding on fossil fuels and deforestation for power needs? Moreover, Africa’s renewable energy potential stands highest in the world and it could be a net green energy exporter to Europe and Asia given the west corrects its trajectory.

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