As Europe takes action to combat climate change, the contribution made by coal to European power generation continues to fall. A recent survey published by the WindEurope non-profit industry association confirms this trend, and indicates that wind power capacity has now overtaken the installed capacity of coal-fired plants in Europe.
Although coal and lignite accounted for 40% of European power generation capacity in 1990, the figure had fallen to no more than 25% by 2014. These figures bode well for the energy transition, since a study published by the nonprofit institute Climate Analytics suggests that all coal-fired power plants in the European Union must close by 2030 if the continent is to meet the commitments made in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Limitless, clean, mature and competitive, wind power is growing very strongly. With an installed capacity of 153.7 gigawatts (GW) in Europe, it has recently overtaken coal to become the second-largest installed base of power generating capacity behind gas, according to WindEurope. More than half of all new European generating capacity commissioned in 2016 was provided by wind power. A total of 10.9 GW was installed onshore during the year, with a further 1.56 GW offshore.
Although it is true that Germany remains the leading European market for wind power, which accounts for 44% of new installations (5.4 GW), other European countries are also playing their part by beating their own record for new installations in 2016: France (1.6 GW), the Netherlands (887 MW), Finland (570 MW), Ireland (384 MW) and Lithuania (178 MW).
The only slight downside is that wind power accounted for only 10.4% of total European power consumption in 2016 (compared to 10.7% in 2015). This is explained by a level of installation efficiency that remains below that of conventional power generating solutions.
In October 2015, ENGIE gave its commitment to build no further coal-fired power plants, and took the decision that all its new investments in power generation would be in projects limiting zero or very low levels of CO2.
The Group is now the leading generator of wind power in France and Belgium. In Belgium, ENGIE subsidiary company Electrabel recently revised its ambitions upward to achieve 500 MW of onshore wind power capacity by 2020, which is sufficient to power 300,000 homes with sustainable electricity. This means that 200 MW of capacity will be added to the 300 MW already in operation, with the majority being developed under public-private partnerships, and with investment from neighboring communities via Electrabel CoGreen.
ENGIE is also developing many wind power projects internationally. In Mexico, for example, ENGIE plans to build a 51.8 megawatt (MW) wind park at Tamaulipas in the northeast of the country. In offshore wind, the consortium of ENGIE, EDP Renewables and Neoen Marine has been awarded a French government contract to develop and install two offshore wind parks with combined power generating potential of 1,000 MW off Le Tréport and the islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier. The Group is also bidding for the new wind power contract offshore Dunkerque. ENGIE is also involved in the North Sea Mermaid project to construct a 250 MW wind park scheduled to become a reality in 2020.