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EU’s ‘Recession-Busting’ Wind Industry Set to Triple in Value

The European Union’s “recession-busting” wind power industry is forecast to triple in value as its labor force doubles in the 10 years through 2020, the European Wind Energy Association said.

The contribution of the wind industry to the economy of the 27-nation EU will rise to 94.5 billion euros ($123 billion) in 2020 from 32.4 billion euros in 2010, the lobby group, known as EWEA, said today in a report published in Copenhagen at the start of its annual conference. Jobs supported by the industry will jump to 520,000 from 238,154, it said.

“Wind energy is a recession-busting industry,” EWEA President Arthouros Zervos said in a statement. It is “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.”

The EU is chasing a target of getting 20 percent of all energy for power, heating and transport from renewables by 2020. The contribution of the wind industry to EU economic output increased by a third in 2010 from 2007, according to today’s report. EWEA said Feb. 6 that wind power capacity expanded more than 10 percent last year with 21 percent of the bloc’s new power capacity coming from wind.

Increased Competition

Even so, the industry has struggled in recent months amid increased competition, and as European governments work to rein in budget deficits. Spain, with just under a quarter of the EU’s wind farms, in January suspended subsidies to new developments. In its February report, EWEA said investment in the industry was unchanged at about 12.6 billion euros in 2011.

EWEA called for “stable national renewable energy frameworks” and a joined up European power grid to spur the industry further as well as a target to cut greenhouse gases in the bloc by 30 percent for the 30 years through 2020, up from the current goal of a 20-percent reduction.

The continent’s two biggest turbine makers, Aarhus, Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA of Zamudio, Spain, have both shed more than 60 percent of their value in the past year as competition from China helped crimp margins. Navigant Consulting Inc.’s BTM Consult said March 26 that they were the biggest and fourth-largest turbine makers by market share in 2011.

The industry now contributes 0.26 percent of European economic output, according to today’s report. By 2020, wind power will contribute 0.59 percent of EU economic output, rising to almost 1 percent a decade later, it said.

Net exports for wind totaled 5.7 billion euros in 2010, and the industry saved the bloc an identical amount in fossil fuel bills, according to the report.

EWEA included wind farm developers, turbine makers and component manufacturers in its study, as well as jobs and economic output relating to transportation of the turbines, and the electronics and metals used in them.

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