The European Union's (EU) wind energy sector installed 11.6 GW of capacity in 2012, bringing the EU's total wind power capacity to 105.6 GW, according to statistics released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
The 11.6 GW of wind energy installed in 2012 represents a 23.4% increase over the 9.4 GW installed last year, EWEA notes.
Wind energy represented 26% of all new EU power capacity installed last year and is now meeting 7% of Europe's electricity demand – up from 6.3% at the end of 2011. Renewable energy represented 69% of all new power capacity in 2012, while new fuel oil, coal and nuclear capacity declined, due to decommissioning.
Last year, wind energy installations were led by Germany (2.4 GW, 21% of all new wind power capacity); the U.K. (1.9 GW, 16%); Italy (1.3 GW, 11%); Romania (900 MW, 8%) and Poland (900 MW, 8%). In terms of total installed capacity, Germany is also the leader (31.3 GW, 30%), followed by Spain (22.8 GW, 22%); the U.K. (8.4 GW, 8%); Italy (8.1 GW, 8%) and France (7.2 GW, 7%).
Notably, Denmark, Germany and Spain represented just 33% of annual wind power installations in the EU in 2012, down from 85% in 2000.
Overall, wind energy represented investments of between 12.8 billion euros and 17.2 billion euros last year, according to EWEA.
However, just like in the U.S., political uncertainty threatens to create instability in Europe's wind energy market.
"The 2012 figures reflect orders made before the wave of political uncertainty that has swept across Europe since 2011, which is having a hugely negative impact on the wind energy sector," explains Christian Kjaer, EWEA's CEO. "We expect this instability to be far more apparent in 2013 and 2014 installation levels."
The EU is almost 2 GW (1.7%) behind in achieving its National Renewable Energy Action Plan forecasts. Eighteen member states are falling behind, including Slovakia, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, France and Portugal, EWEA notes.