European wind moves toward innovation and digitisation

Companies discuss the future of the European wind energy sector at the Wind Europe Summit 2016 in Hamburg. According to Enel’s Director of Renewables, Venturini: “Digitisation and new regulations are key to staying competitive”.

To take on the global challenge of renewable energy and the transition towards a truly sustainable and innovative energy model, the European wind energy industry must focus on cutting-edge technologies and innovative digital solutions, to maintain its leadership in the sector and reduce costs. However, it must also be supported by a simple and courageous internal regulatory framework, one that is capable of attracting investments and creating an electricity market that relies on renewable energy sources (RES).

This is the main message that emerged from the Wind Europe Summit 2016, which from September 26th to 29th brought together European wind power companies and organisations in the city of Hamburg.

“We are at a turning point in terms of technological innovations in the wind power sector. Therefore, markets must take advantage of the new potential of the European wind industry,” highlighted Francesco Venturini, director of Enel’s Renewables business line and President of Wind Europe, the European association for wind energy operators.

Digital innovation plays a key role in this context, explained Venturini, because it allows us to improve the efficiency of wind energy production, to optimise the operation and maintenance costs of wind turbines and to increase the safety of those who work in wind farms.

The European wind energy industry, Enel’s Director of Renewables explained, has great potential, but in order to maximise it, “we need a regulatory push from the EU. The old installed capacity in Europe is reaching the end of its life cycle: this gives us the opportunity to take advantage of the situation and to renew technologies and make them more efficient and advanced. This would cost less than building a new wind farm.” This is where the EU should come into play with a specific intervention aimed at boosting European competitiveness and leadership in the sector.

According to the Making Transition Work report presented at the convention in Hamburg, Europe could reduce wind power costs by 26 percent for onshore wind farms and €80/MWh for offshore farms by 2025, contributing to the growth of the wind energy share in the EU generation mix up to 24-28 percent by 2030, with a great increase in installed capacity in many countries.

However, in order to achieve these results, Europe must adopt ambitious policies, after having lost its leadership in different areas of the renewable energy sector: China beats Europe in terms of volume and new installations, India in terms of long-term objectives, and the US in technological leadership.

“Europe is no longer number one on RES and its actions in the near future are crucial if it plans to regain lost ground,” emphasised Venturini. Wind Europe CEO Giles Dikson also stressed that: “The European wind industry calls for urgent action in four main areas: setting a European target of at least 30 percent RES in final energy consumption by 2030, accelerating innovation in order to further reduce costs, supporting the integration of RES in the energy system through an adequate market design (an energy market based on renewables, ed.), developing the electrification of heating/cooling and transport.”

“First-class technologies are available in Europe but to really have an impact, they should be backed by specific policies,” concluded Venturini, according to whom, “the time has come for institutions and the industry to embrace the transition and make it work.”