(Reuters) – The world will have enough wind turbines to generate more than 300 gigawatts of power – the equivalent of 114 nuclear power plants – by the end of the year, industry figures show.
As Brazil, China, Mexico and South Africa add turbines, the figure represents modest growth compared with a year ago, when the overall total capacity was just over 280 gigawatts.
“Worldwide installed wind power will exceed 300 gigawatts of power capacity this year,” Peter Sennekamp, media officer for the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), said, citing figures compiled by EWEA and the Global Wind Energy Council.
Europe, which has led the world on wind, still represents around a third of all capacity, with more than 100 gigawatts, but its growth has been stalled by uncertainty as financial crisis has meant abrupt changes to subsidy regimes.
The European Commission, the European Union’s executive, has supported the idea of harmonization of subsidies across the European Union and said it will publish guidelines before the summer break in August.
However, EU authorities cannot dictate to member states what kind of energy sources they use and how they are financed.
The most heated debate has been in Germany, ahead of elections in September, where the cost of energy and progress of implementing the nation’s Energiewende – or transition to green energy and away from nuclear fuel – are election issues.
Heavy industry has attacked renewable subsidies, arguing they add to costs and damage competitiveness, especially when the United States benefits from cheap shale gas.
Representatives of the renewable industry say they are working to produce energy that can compete economically with traditional sources, which would lower political risk.
They say they have made progress on onshore wind and solar, but for the huge scale of offshore wind, a technology still in its infancy, subsidies are essential, probably for the rest of the decade.
“We see six to seven (offshore) projects under way and then there’s nothing. There’s no decision taken by investors,” Joerg Buddenberg, CEO EWE Vertrieb, part of Germany’s EWE Group, told reporters, referring to the German market.
Wind energy executives note conventional fuel sources have long benefited from support in the form of tax breaks for oil and gas and government help in disposing of spent nuclear fuel.
To mark global wind day on Saturday June 15, they are calling on world leaders meeting for G8 talks next week to stick to a commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Richard Chang)