Europe’s wind energy industry contributed an additional 33% – 32 billion euros (~$41.6 billion) – to EU GDP between 2007 and 2010, growing at double the rate of the EU economy as a whole in 2010, the European Wind Energy announced on the opening day of EWEA 2012 in Copenhagen.
The European wind industry’s increasing contribution to EU economic activity couldn’t be more welcome. Plagued by ballooning government deficits and debt, the EU’s staring at its second recession in three years, with March unemployment hitting a 15-year high in February.
“Wind energy is a recession-busting industry. It is countering the recession – providing increasing economic activity, more jobs and exports every year to an EU struggling with an economic crisis intensified by ever increasing amounts of fuel being imported at rising costs to European citizens,” EWEA president Arthouros Zervos was quoted in a press release.
According to the EWEA’s “Green Growth” report, which was released during EWEA 2012’s opening session:
- The wind energy sector contributed €32 billion to EU GDP in 2010
- The sector’s contribution to GDP grew by 33% from 2007 to 2010
- The sector created 30% more jobs from 2007 to 2010 to reach nearly 240,000, while EU unemployment rose by 9.6% . By 2020, there should be 520,000 jobs in the sector.
- The sector was a net exporter of €5.7 billion worth of goods and services in 2010
- The sector avoided €5.71 billion of fuel costs in 2010
- The sector invested 5% of its spending in R&D – three times more than the EU average. Wind turbine manufacturers commit around 10% of their total turnover to R&D.
Extending and expanding support for EU wind energy is yielding benefits in the short- and long-term, as well as across multiple fronts, opening day speakers pointed out. A world leader in wind and renewable energy, as well as efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change and enhance the environmental and social sustainability of business, Denmark’s prime minister and crown prince addressed conference attendees.
“The green agenda is both about job creation in the short run and climate protection in the long run,” stated Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. “Focusing on the role of wind power for our sustainable future makes good sense from both an environmental and an economic perspective,” Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederick added.
Keeping wind industry momentum going
Looking forward, the EWEA’s “Green Growth” report forecasts that the European wind energy industry’s contribution to EU GDP will grow nearly three-fold by 2020. If it were a nation, it would rank it 19th in forecast EU GDP, above Slovakia and just below Hungary, according to the press release.
Continued growth in European wind energy will also make a significant dent in dealing with the EU’s unemployment problem. EU wind energy jobs will reach 520,000 come 2020, a more than 200% increase, potentially reaching 795,000 by 2030.
The EU needs to do certain things in order to ensure the European wind energy industry realizes this potential, however, according to the EWEA:
- Stable national renewable energy frameworks, and ambitious implementation of 2020 requirements at national level
- A post-2020 energy policy with a binding renewables target for 2030
- A joined up European power grid and single energy market
- A more ambitious 30% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2020
- Sufficient and dedicated EU funding for wind energy research