ACCELERATED DEVELOPMENT, INSTALLATION AND INTEGRATION OF WIND AND SOLAR POWER PLANTS WILL REDUCE DEPENDENCE ON EUROPEAN ENERGY SUPPLIES
In the context of the military conflict in Ukraine, the European energy security, and in particular Bulgarian energy security, is under immediate threat. The dependence on Russia’s energy supplies puts the European economy to an unprecedented test, which could threaten the national security of the countries of the old continent. More than ever, European citizens and business need energy independence – secure, affordable and clean energy produced on our continent.
It is of the utmost importance to rely on the significant local wind and solar resources and to take rapid and targeted actions towards large-scale installation of renewable energy, which will support independence from energy imports while accelerating decarbonisation. The transformation of our energy system into carbon-independent-technologies one that use local resources should not be delayed.
The European Commission presented the “RePowerEU” plan with a faster expansion of wind energy and other renewables with the aim to increase energy security. The European Union wants wind energy to be 50% of its electricity by 2050. The Commission acknowledges the fundamental need to simplify the permitting of new renewable energy projects. Improving permitting is “a matter of urgency” to Europe’s energy transition. Long and overly complex permitting procedures are the main bottleneck to the expansion of wind energy.
At present, wind and solar energy is many times cheaper than electricity produced from fossil fuels and nuclear power plants. Thus, along with the immediate effect on the energy security issue, the large-scale integration of RES in Bulgaria’s energy system will increase the competitiveness of the Bulgarian economy, attract investments requiring RES supplies and create many highly skilled jobs.
According to a study, conducted jointly by the European Technology and Innovation Platform on Wind Energy (ETIPWind) and the European Wind Association (WindEurope), energy system based on RES would not cost more as a share of GDP than the current energy system, based largely on fossil fuels. Such a system will drastically reduce the costs associated with air pollution and negative impacts on the environment and human health. To achieve this, EU needs to increase its onshore wind capacity to 1000 GW and its offshore wind capacity to 300 GW by 2050. Currently, the total installed capacity of wind energy is 180 GW and in this regard the necessary transformation requires Europe to install double new wind farms annually.
Wind is one of the fastest growing energy sources and it is expected to be a significant part of the newly installed capacities over the next decade. Wind energy has proved resilient to the crisis caused by COVID-19, and in this sense it is a valuable asset for the European economy. Data from the previous year shows that the sector contributes 37 billion Euros to EU GDP and employs 300,000 workers.
The main advantages of wind energy could be clearly identified:
- Wind is a local energy resource that reduces dependence on energy imports and energy sources and limits the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices.
- Wind energy emits zero carbon, sulfur and nitrogen oxides.
- Wind energy projects produce ~ 95% less CO2 than gas and ~ 98% less CO2 than coal-fired power plants.
- Wind projects consume almost no water.
- Carbon footprint is negligible: a wind turbine carbon payback period is just 6-9 months.
- Wind energy projects have a positive impact on local communities, directing resources to remote areas with low investment activity.
- Wind farms operate in symbiosis with other economic sectors, while working in full compliance with biodiversity and environmental protection.
The current geopolitical situation makes even more urgent the transformation of Bulgaria’s energy system. In recent years, a series of legislative and regulatory measures have led to a large outflow of wind energy investments, as only 7 MW were installed in the period 2015-2021.
Viewed in this way, a clear state policy that focuses on sustainable geopolitical, economic and business patterns is needed. Urgent legislative and regulatory changes should allow the accelerated development, installation and integration of wind and solar power plants in the country’s energy system. The Bulgarian Wind Energy Association remains a constructive partner of the responsible institutions in developing the necessary policies and strategies to enable the transition towards clean and independent energy as an important element of the national security.