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New EU wind power capacity near level

BRUSSELS, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A bit less new European power generating capacity blew in wind's direction last year with 9,616 megawatts installed in 2011, industry backers said this week.

The European Wind Energy Association said Monday in Brussels that wind power accounted for 9,616 of the 35,468 megawatts of capacity added by European Union member nations last year -- 21.4 percent of the total.

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That is equivalent to 6.3 percent of the EU's electricity supply, EWEA Policy Director Justin Wilkes said. The figure was down slightly from the 9,650 megawatts added in 2010.

"Despite the economic crisis gripping Europe, the wind industry is still installing solid levels of new capacity," Wilkes said in a statement.

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The numbers contributed to a 15.6 percent average annual growth of installed wind power capacity during the last 17 years.

Some mature European markets such a France and Spain saw a drop in wind power installations in 2011 but those decreases were largely offset by sizable gains in onshore installations in Germany and Sweden as well as offshore in Britain.

Meanwhile, there were strong performances from emerging onshore markets, such as Romania, the EWEA said.

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Overall, wind increased its share of installed capacity to 10.5 percent of the European total but Wilkes also noted the EU power sector installed more coal capacity than it decommissioned for only the third time since 1998 -- demonstrating continuing demand for fossil fuels.

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"This hike in new coal power capacity highlights the urgent need for the EU to move to a 30 percent greenhouse gas reduction target for 2020, to introduce an Emissions Performance Standard, and to end decades of subsidies for new coal-build and its fuel," he said.

The EU's fossil-fired power capacity also grew in 2010, although only marginally, by 1.8 percent, Eurelectric, the Union of the Electricity Industry, reported.

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The industry group said fossil-fired generation saw an increase of 5 percent, particularly in natural gas, as a rebounding economic recovery sent electricity demand surging.

The Union for the Co-ordination of Transmission of Electricity -- an association of transmission system operators in continental Europe -- said that based on power plant projects already announced, there will be a net addition of 20,000-22,000 megawatts of fossil fuel-fired capacity by 2013 in Germany.

Also spotlighting the continuing growth of coal and gas-fired generating capacity, a study conducted by consultants Redpoint Energy concluded an additional 10,000 to 14,000 megawatts of such capacity would come online by 2020 in Britain under the provisions of that country's Industrial Emissions Directive.

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Indeed, Europe's hunger for coal continues to spike and is driving increased imports of the raw material used by power plants and heavy industry.

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Domestic hard coal consumption by EU nations through the first six months of 2011 was 64.9 million metric tons, up from 59.7 million metric tons over the year-earlier period, the European Association for Coal and Lignite reported.

Germany was on track to import up to 48 million metric tons of coal for 2011-- a total that will like increase due to its decision to phase out its nuclear power capacity, the coal industry group said.

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