More renewable power capacity was installed than ever before in the European Union (EU) during 2011, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) says in a new report published on Monday. The EU saw a 3.9% increase in power capacity compared with 2010, much of which was driven by renewable power capacity increases. In 2011, the EU added 37.7% more renewable power capacity than in 2010.

The industry group says 9,616 MW of wind energy capacity was installed in the EU in 2011, bringing its cumulative wind capacity to 93,957 MW—or enough to supply 6.3% of the EU’s electricity demand. Representing 21.4% of new power capacity, wind energy installations in 2011 were similar to the previous year’s 9,648 MW. The wind industry has had an average annual growth rate of 15.6% over the past 17 years (1995-2011).

"Despite the economic crisis gripping Europe, the wind industry is still installing solid levels of new capacity", said Justin Wilkes, policy director of EWEA. "But to achieve the EU’s long-term targets we need strong growth again in future years. It is critical to send positive signals to investors by European governments maintaining stable policies to support renewables and for the European Union to commit to put in place a binding renewable energy target for 2030."

For only the third time since 1998, the EU’s power sector installed more coal than it decommissioned, “highlighting the urgent need for the EU to move to a 30% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2020, to introduce an Emissions Performance Standard, and to end decades of subsidies for new coal build and its fuel,” the group said.

Growth in onshore wind installations in Germany and Sweden, and offshore projects in the UK—together with continuing strong performances from some emerging onshore markets such as Romania—offset a fall in installations in mature markets such as France and Spain. Overall, Germany remains the EU country with the largest installed capacity, followed by Spain, France, Italy, and the UK.

Altogether, more renewable power capacity was installed during 2011 than in any other year. Renewables accounted for 71.3% of new installations: 32,043 MW—up 37.7% on 2010 installations. Both fuel oil and nuclear power saw a drop last year, with more capacity decommissioned than installed.

Overall last year, the EU’s total installed power capacity increased by 35,468 MW net to 895,878 MW, with wind power increasing its share of installed capacity to 10.5% and renewable capacity increasing its share to 31.1%.

Source: EWEA