By Julian Scola, Communication Director, European Wind Energy Association
Improved grids and a single electricity market would allow the EU wind power sector to reach even greater heights.
Just eight years from now one of the European Union's most successful legislative policies in energy - 20% of EU energy coming from renewables - is scheduled to fade away, leaving wind power and other renewable energies rudderless when it comes to charting a new energy course towards mid-century.
And yet a new 2030 renewable energy target would provide as stable a legislative foundation for wind energy in the future as the existing 2020 target does now.
Wind power investors sector need certainty and a new or extended target would almost certainly become a catalyst for more investments in manufacturing, supply chains, infrastructure and R&D.
Not only that, but a 2030 target, which policy makers are now discussing, would help the EU reach its climate, competitiveness and energy security aims for the next 20 years.
The European Renewable Energy Council has called on the European Commission, Member States and the European Parliament to deliver on the European Union's long-term climate commitment by proposing and endorsing a legally binding target of at least 45% renewable energy by 2030. Among those endorsing this 45% target is the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
It is undeniable that Europe's economy is currently going through a period of unwelcome crisis sparked by debts, job losses and a lack of financing.
But at the same time they are trying to find solutions to the economic crisis, policy makers should continue to support sectors that are doing well, one of the brightest of which is European wind power.
Indeed, as a region, Europe is number one when it comes to wind energy. The European Union passed the milestone of 100 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind power capacity in late September, according to EWEA.
By the end of 2011, the EU had almost 94 GW of installed wind power capacity. Asia had just over 82 GW and North America had nearly 53 GW.
In terms of national cumulative installed wind power capacity at the end of 2011, six European countries placed in the top 10.
The 9,616 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity - 8,750 MW onshore and 866 MW offshore - installed in the EU during 2011 was worth some €12.6 billion, creating both jobs and R&D opportunities.
In addition, the wind capacity installed by the end of 2011 would, in a normal year, produce 204 TWh of electricity, representing 6.3% of electricity consumption – up from 5.3% the year before.
The growth of renewables in the EU in the past has largely been driven by onshore wind. Now is beginning a massive increase in offshore wind, which has the potential of meeting Europe's power demand seven times over.
EWEA's target for offshore wind is 40 GW by 2020 and 150 GW by 2030. Together, offshore and onshore wind power is expected to reach 230 GW by 2020 and 400 GW a decade later.
The association believes wind power - on and off shore - can provide half of Europe's electricity by mid-century.
It should be obvious by now that the wind power sector is here to stay and that new renewable targets for 2030, coupled with effective national implementation of the existing Renewable Energy Directive, would help the industry achieve even greater success.
So would a commitment to extending and upgrading grid systems so they could efficiently handle increasing amounts of wind energy, especially considering the rapid expansion of the offshore industry.
In addition, the long overdue creation of a single electricity market with large amounts of wind power would bring affordable electricity to consumers, reduce import dependence, cut CO2 emissions and allow the whole of Europe to access its largest domestic energy source.
Europe should continue to increase public spending on technological R&D which would rapidly bring down the costs of, among other things, offshore wind.
The EU can lead the way to a renewable energy economy, and hasten the end of support for mature renewable technologies like onshore wind, by ending fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies.
Wind power will help Europe in its transition by mid-century to a new green energy economy that is local, affordable, sustainable and dependable. Supportive policy makers can ensure that success.