The Renewable and Low Carbon Energy website

for farmers and landowners

Wind power must be seen as critical infrastructure says European Economic and Social Committee

Case Studies

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) championed the role of wind power in the EU’s energy transition at its March plenary, highlighting that a strong wind industry would improve the EU’s environmental, economic and social well-being.  

Faced with growing pressure from international competitors such as China, the European Union needs to step up its wind industry and promote its wind power development.

To achieve this result, the EESC feel that the bloc must significantly expand, modernise and digitalise its grid infrastructure and, at the same time, create the corresponding storage infrastructure.

Grid auctions must stick to environmental, labour and social standards

According to the EESC wind power must be seen as critical infrastructure, with “all corresponding privileges and due diligence obligations”, and all the approval procedures on tenders and permits must be urgently and fully digitalised and accelerated.

In addition, when organising auctions to determine how to allocate funds for renewable energy, the committee feel it essential to apply high pre-qualification criteria to make sure that the companies involved companies should always abide by security, occupational safety, collective bargaining, social and environmental requirements such as the need to promote a circular economy.

The committee went on to warn of purely price-based auctions encouraging a “race to the bottom”, that harms the environment and workers and puts companies that are eager to contribute, for example through investments in environmental and biodiversity protection, at a disadvantage.

Energy communities are a significant asset for wind power

The EESC also pointed to the participation of citizens and organised civil society as essential, with the success of the energy transition dependent on them being active drivers, warning that the wind power sector and the overall transition away from fossil fuels would be at risk without their social acceptance.

An EESC representative said:

“Energy communities, energy cooperatives and energy sharing are valuable vehicles to boost the dissemination of wind power and represent an interesting form of extended prosumption from three points of view: social (participation and acceptance), economic (mobilisation of additional capital) and energy (generation closer to demand).

“The European Commission should therefore recognise their important contribution in social, economic and energy efficiency terms by including effective citizen participation as the 7th pillar of the proposed Wind Power Action Plan.”

Background

In October 2023, the EC presented a European Wind Power Action Plan to ensure that the clean energy transition goes hand-in-hand with industrial competitiveness and that wind power continues to be a success story.

The plan provides a list of the immediate action to be taken together by the European Commission, the Member States and the industry, focusing on six main areas:

  • acceleration of deployment through increased predictability and faster permitting
  • improved auction design
  • access to finance
  • a fair and competitive international environment
  • large-scale skills partnerships for renewable energy
  • industry engagement and Member States’ commitments.

Europe installed 18.3GW of new wind power capacity in 2023, with 79% of this being onshore, bringing the total European capacity to 255GW. The 27 member states installed 16.2GW of this new wind power – a record amount but only half of what is needed to meet the 2030 climate and energy targets.

Related

Advice & Opportunities