Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Anyone who follows the climate emergency and extreme weather events would think the serial catastrophes of the past couple years would be enough to put the governments into crisis mode in moving swiftly to green energy. It turns out that for Europe, at least, it took the Russian invasion of Ukraine to concentrate the mind. Europe is heavily dependent on Russian petroleum and methane gas, an unenviable position given that they are now thereby funding the Russian war effort.
The European Union set a goal for member states of collectively investing $314 billion in the green energy transition by 2030, with two-thirds of that to be spent in just the next 5 years, by 2027. This commitment is on top of the plans the 27 member states already had.
The new goal is to get 45% of Europe’s electricity from renewables by 2030, up from a previous goal of 40%.
In addition, the Energy ministers of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark issued a manifesto of energy independence from Russian methane gas on Wednesday, pledging themselves to create massive new wind farms in the North Sea off their coasts that will have a capacity of 65 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 and 130 GW by 2050. The European Union only has about 16 gigawatts of offshore wind installed at the moment, so they are planning to increase that by almost ten times by 2050.
The Biden adminstration’s goal for offshore wind by 2030 is only 30 gigawatts, so these four countries are aiming higher than the entire US.
Denmark and Germany already had big plans for expanding offshore wind but they are now increasing their goals. The four states are also innovating in making plans for multiple connections so that the wind farms will supply a common four-country grid. In fact, they say they want to work toward a pan-Europe grid.
They also want to innovate: “We will monitor the development of technology for solar photovoltaic within offshore wind farms.” Wind turbine/ PV solar hybrid installations produce energy more efficiently and more inexpensively.
Denmark has an artificial wind energy island on the drawing board, but now Belgium will also construct one. Indeed, all four countries will “begin planning for multiple energy hubs and islands.”
The four countries also pledged to speed up permitting, a major bottleneck for wind farms in Europe. The ministers insist, “renewable energy should be considered as being in the overriding public interest and serving public safety.”
Nikolaus J. Kurmayer at Euractiv.com quotes European commission President Ursula von der Leyen as saying, “Nowadays we have permitting times between six and nine years.” She said that these would be reduce to one year in certain “go-to” areas, i.e. high-priority green zones, including the country of Denmark.
If these plans are implemented, they will likely have unforeseen side effects, such as impelling technological innovation by European scientists and companies in the green energy space, and increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost of wind and solar.