Malgosia Bartosik: “Ultimately, Competitive and Home-Grown Renewables Provide True Energy Security for Europe”

Environment - April 25, 2024

Malgosia Bartosik is one of Europe’s leading voices on the future of renewable energies. For 20 years, Bartosik has been part of Wind Europe, where she now leads as its Deputy Chief Executive Officer. With over 500 registered members from all actors in the supply chain and presence in more than 35 countries, Wind Europe is one of Brussels most influential advocates of wind power.

Bartosik participated as a panelist in ECR’s last Culture Weekend in Cyprus about the security and energy challenges the European Union must face in the near future.

We spoke with Malgosia Bartosik to delve deeper into the internal and external threats to the Union’s energy security, as well as the regulatory challenges policy and decision makers must look at to ensure grid flexibility and the financing of renewable energy projects.

Two years after the beginning of the war in Ukraine, how would you describe the state of energy security in the EU?

The European Union has made energy security a top priority. It has launched the REPowerEU programme, its energy policy answer to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. REPowerEU has three key pillars: diversifying Europe’s gas supply routes, energy efficiency and energy saving, and perhaps most importantly: ramping up Europe’s domestic electricity production from renewables.

The gas storage levels are high, and Europe seems prepared for the coming winter. But the world is more unpredictable and insecure than it has been. We cannot take things for granted. We have to learn our lessons not to repeat mistakes. Ultimately, competitive, and home-grown renewables provide true energy security for Europe.

With other forms of energy production (such as nuclear) coming to the fore and becoming mainstream in political discourse, do you see threats or opportunities for wind energy production?

The expansion targets for wind energy are clearly set out. Today Europe has 220 GW of installed wind energy capacity. The EU wants this to be 425 GW by 2030 and 1300 GW by 2050. Our latest outlook shows that we are starting to come close to the 2030 target. But we need to further scale up the European wind energy supply chain and manufacturing capacities. We need more and expanded factories. And more people to work in green sectors like wind and solar. We also need big investments in the supporting infrastructure such as electricity grids, ports, vessels and skilled workers. But the industry is starting to make these urgently needed investments.

All scenarios expect the overall electricity demand in Europe to increase significantly. Wind energy is set to provide at least 50% of all electricity consumed in Europe by 2050. But there is plenty of space for other clean technologies such as solar, hydro and nuclear in the future energy mix. One thing is clear though. Nuclear will not increase its contribution to the EU’s 2030 energy security and climate targets significantly. If you decide to build a new nuclear plant today it will not be built by 2030. That’s the big advantage of wind and solar. They are cheap and they are highly scalable.

With increased imports of primary and secondary energy products, and the Union’s commitment to gradually phase out fossil fuel energy sources, can renewables compensate for the declining energy production in the EU?

They can and they are already. Clean power sources generated a record two-thirds of the EU’s electricity in 2023. Wind energy was 19%, hydro 12%, solar 8% and bioenergy another 6%. At the same time fossil generation fell to its lowest share ever – just a third of total generation. For the first time ever wind energy generated more electricity than gas.

We have to talk more about it, to get people not only to know about it, but also to benefit from it. Communities that live next to wind farms must be part of the projects, there are many ways how they can be involved. The jobs: wind sector alone needs to almost double the number of employees in the next 6 years – those are high quality jobs that can be a great option for the declining sectors like coal for example. We have many reskilling programmes across European countries for coalminers, fisherman, military retirees. We have programme for school so that young people can understand the climate crisis and why the transition needs to happen.

WindEurope’s report ‘Maximising the power of wind through grid flexibility’ explains that regulators will need to enable “forward looking expenditure” to invest in a flexible power system that supports the integration of large volumes of renewables. What policies would you recommend to MEPs and national governments to facilitate this process while protecting consumers?

There is no point in building wind farms, if they cannot be connected to the gird. Europe wants as much new renewables as possible – as soon as possible. We must avoid delays due to grid bottlenecks. Therefore, grid operators should be enabled to take anticipatory investments.

This forward-looking approach to building grid does not have to affect electricity bills. The EU Action Plan for Grids clearly states that the economic losses of delaying grids necessary to connect new wind farms outweigh the costs of anticipatory investments. Close collaboration between regulators, grid operators and industry is needed to identify where these investments should be taken.

Last December, 26 energy ministers signed the European Wind Charter. Spain recently signed a dedicated Spanish Wind Charter at WindEurope’s Annual Event 2024 in Bilbao. The Charter lays out six ambitious lines of action to accelerate the expansion of wind energy production. What short term measures should Brussels, and Member States take to start to kickstart these commitments?

The Charter is excellent. It has all the right measures. Some of them fall to the EU, some to the European Investment Bank, some to the Member States to implement. The European Investment Bank (EIB) already started. They announced a €5bn counter-guarantee scheme for wind energy manufacturing. The counter-guarantees will improve access to finance for wind turbine manufacturers, providing them with the support they need to help boost Europe’s energy security and competitiveness. The European Commission is also getting serious about its commitments under the Charter. They recently announced an inquiry into potentially unfairly subsidised Chinese suppliers of wind turbines. This comes to create fair competition between European turbine manufacturers and international competitors. And some Member States are also moving ahead. Germany has been fast in improving wind energy permitting. The results are immediately visible: they permitted 7.5 GW of new projects in 2023 – a 70% increase on 2022.