WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson was in Istanbul for 12th Turkish Wind Energy Congress (TÜREK 2023) organized with the theme “Century of the Wind” and answered questions of Gazete Makina.
In the interview, the digital permit system “Easy Permits”, which will accelerate the installation of wind power plants, the wind energy package published by the EU Commission in October 2023, the European Investment Bank’s new action plan for the financing of wind power plants, the carbon border adjustment mechanism and Turkey. The focus was on issues such as Turkey’s wind energy production capacity and energy supply to surrounding countries.
Legal permissions has been one of the main struggles of the wind industry. In what degree has the “EasyPermits” system contributed in the solution of this issue?
Permitting remains one of the biggest bottleneck for deploying wind energy at large scale in Europe. About 80 GW of wind power capacity is stuck in permitting procedures across Europe. Project developers are waiting a very long time to receive permits – sometimes up to 9 years. The new Renewable Energy Directive is already improving the duration of the processes by reducing the deadlines. Authorities must now approve or refuse all permits for new onshore wind energy projects within maximum 2 years. But not many countries are delivering their permits within deadlines.
In its Wind Energy Action Plan announced in October 2023 the European Commission has pledged to make permitting processes more digital. Today permit applications are largely paper-based. Digital permitting processes will enable local authorities to work on several files at once and will shorten the overall duration of the permitting procedures.
“EasyPermits” is a digital permitting platform we have developed with our partners Amazon Web Services and Accenture. EasyPermits is currently being tested in municipalities in Denmark and Poland. So far, the results have been positive. The tool helps permitting agents work on three times as many files at the same time. They can assess the evolution of the project twice as fast. After the test period EasyPermits could be one of the digital solutions applied to streamline permitting in Europe and elsewhere.
Can you give more detailed information regarding the wind power package which the EU Commission presented in October 2023?
The Wind Power Package is a game-changer for Europe’s wind energy industry. The new actions on finance, auctions and permitting will speed up the deployment of wind farms. The package aims to support Europe’s wind energy supply chain. The measures will help European companies to invest in new manufacturing plants, machines and staff. It will strengthen European competitiveness in the face of the growing international competition. When she announced the Package in her “State of the Union” speech EU Commission President von der Leyen said that wind energy is a “European success story” and added: “From wind to steel, from batteries to electric vehicles, our ambition is crystal clear: The future of our clean tech industry has to be made in Europe.”
The Wind Energy Package consists of 15 actions for the EU Commission, the EIB, the EU Member States and for the wind industry. All will need to play their part. Many actions don’t require European legislation. . For instance, the European Commission can already implement digital platforms and tools to improve permitting. Other measures will need to be implemented by the EU Member States. It is up to them to adopt the actions proposed in the Action Plan into national legislation. Additionally, the European Commission proposed to enshrine support for the Package in a dedicated Wind Energy Charter to be signed by the end of the year.
For more information, you can visit this address: https://windeurope.org/newsroom/press-releases/wind-power-package-game-changer-for-europes-energy-security
How fast do you forecast the acceleration of transition to green energy in the pace of complete reinforcement of carbon border adjustment mechanism?
The Commission wants wind to be half of Europe’s electricity by 2050 and wants over twice as much wind capacity in 2030 as we have today. Today Europe has just over 200 GW. By 2050 the European Commission wants 420 GW. This is perfectly feasible from the point of view of technology and finance. But it needs a major improvement in the permitting procedures for new wind farms across Europe. The EU has a key role to play here in identifying and promoting best practice. And we need to ramp up our supply chain. Today’s factories cannot produce the volumes we need to install in the second half of the decade. The Wind Power Package crucially provides a series of measures to finance investments in new factories. It proposes to double the money available for clean tech manufacturing under the EU Innovation Fund and wants the European Investment Bank (EIB) to provide de-risking tools and counter-guarantees by the end of 2023 to cover the exposure of private banks when they lend money to the wind industry. The EIB has also changed its lending policy to finance manufacturing in addition to its extensive financing of wind farms.
The Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism is another instrument which ensures that goods imported to the European Union and domestically produced goods compete on a level playing field with regards to their carbon price. The Mechanism has the potential to provide incentives to decarbonize – both for European manufacturers and for Europe’s international trade partners.
One unit-to-one unit storage also brings the risk of turning the lands into battery cemeteries. Which developments can we talk about overcoming this situation and decreasing the ratio of storage?
One unit to one storage unit is not a good idea. Even countries that want to support their battery production industry have not introduced such strict rules. It is not unreasonable to ask for more storage in renewable auctions but this is too much. A 20% rate of storage versus new wind capacity would be more reasonable.
On top of that, there are many ways to improve the system integration of wind energy. In Europe we already today see that stormy days can lead to times when a country produces more electricity from wind than it can consume. This is often the case in Denmark but also Portugal recently recorded 6 straight days in which wind energy generation exceeded total electricity consumption. We must make this excess electricity usable. Battery storage is a solution here. But it is only one solution among many. The cases of Denmark and Portugal show that inter-connectors connecting Europe’s national electricity grids are key. Denmark frequently exports electricity to Germany. Portugal exported to Spain. Renewable hydrogen can be another way to make excess electricity usable. Electrolyzers can produce hydrogen from renewable electricity and make it usable in sectors like heavy industry, shipping or aviation. Lastly, Europe is making steady process on demand side management. Companies are for example learning to flexibly adjust their production processes and ramp up production when there is a lot of wind in the system – and when electricity prices as a consequence are low.
Throughout EU decisions, hydrogen and even (future new and safe forms of) nuclear energy have been involved as preference tendencies. What can the position of wind power be under these circumstances?
The future electricity system in Europe will be a mix of technologies. But one thing is clear: direct electrification will play a much bigger role than it does today. Today less than 25% of all energy consumed in Europe is electricity. The rest is largely the fossil fuels we use to heat our homes (often gas boilers), the fuel we use for our cars (diesel, gasoline) and planes (kerosine). This will change as more and more processes will be electric in the future. Electric heat pumps will help to heat and cool houses. Electric vehicles are already on our roads. Renewable-based electrification is the key to deliver climate neutrality by 2050. Electricity will directly cover 57% of final energy uses and provide another 18% indirectly through renewable hydrogen and its derivatives
Wind will play the leading role in this. Wind energy will be 50% of the EU’s electricity mix by then. Onshore and offshore wind will continue to be among the most cost-efficient forms of power generation across Europe.
We can talk about a leap regarding Turkiye’s wind power capacity and supply capability to surrounding countries. How do you view this in terms of a projection into EU’s 2050 carbon neutralization target?
Turkey has 12 GW of wind energy already which generated about 11% of its electricity demand last year. But ambitions are high. There is about 26 GW of onshore projects in development. And the Government wants this capacity to be built as soon as possible. Turkey could eventually become an exporter of renewable electricity if it succeeds in building all of this capacity.
But building this much is not just good for Turkey’s electricity supply. The country already has a strong supply chain around the city of Izmir. There are 13 factories producing towers, blades, gearboxes and generators in Turkey. 80% of what is produced in these factories is currently being exported. This makes Turkey an essential part of the wider European wind energy supply chain. And this could grow even more. The port of Çandarlı can also become a major export hub if the growth continues – including for offshore wind. So Turkey can contribute to Europe’s net-zero target in multiple ways.