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Wind to Become Europe’s Biggest Source of Electricity by 2027

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Wind power will be the single biggest source of electricity generation in Europe, at 23% of total demand, by 2027, International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol told participants at WindEurope’s Global Wind Summit last week.

The revised estimate “was a marked change from the IEA’s last projection,” Greentech Media reports. “The more optimistic outlook is based on a recently agreed EU target [1] of 32% renewable energy by 2030.”

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“With the initiatives coming from Brussels and the hard work of the industry, we expect wind will be the largest source [in] less than 10 years, just after 2025, in Europe,” Birol told conference participants.

At present, Ars Technica reports [3], nuclear generation supplies about 25% of European electricity demand, coal and natural gas each come in a little bit above 20%, and wind accounts for 10%. By 2027, the IEA places [4] wind at 23%, “other renewables” like bioenergy [5] above 20%, gas at 20%, nuclear below 20%, coal at just over 20%, and solar at about 7%.

The IEA sees European wind generation more than tripling, to 1.1 petawatt-hours (1.1 trillion watt-hours), by 2040, which Birol noted is the equivalent of Japan’s entire electricity supply today.

“The European Union has a wealth of wind energy, especially offshore wind energy, a sector in which the EU is the global leader,” Ars Technica notes. “Offshore wind allows turbines to be built bigger, and coastal winds are often stronger and more consistent than onshore winds.” The IEA sees that capacity growing from 15.8 gigawatts in 2017 to nearly 200 GW by 2040.

By that year, the agency places wind at 31% of European electricity generation, nuclear and natural gas at 17% each, and other renewables, mostly biomass, at 23%, solar at 8%, and coal at 4%, Greentech notes.

“Our hope is developments in Europe can spark a wave of offshore wind appetite out of Europe,” Birol said, with China, India, North America, and Latin America as possible growth markets. As well, “offshore wind opens a door for a new push for hydrogen,” he suggested, with policy-makers becoming increasingly focused on ways to integrate intermittent renewables on central electricity grids.

Beyond the EU, the IEA sees China and India adding as much new electricity generating capacity in 2040 as today’s combined total for the U.S. and the EU. Much of the demand will come from air [6] conditioning [7].

“India, in 20 years, is adding one entire Europe” to global electricity demand, Birol told participants. “China is adding one United States. Therefore, decisions taken in Beijing or New Delhi will be critical in terms of which power sectors, which technologies, we see.”