Miglena Stoilova is Chairperson of the Supervisory Board of BGWEA and a member of the Management Board of the National Energy Chamber. Ms. Stoilova is Vice President Special Projects at Postcriptum and CWP Global. She has many years of experience at the world energy leader Enel, where she holds various management positions, has managed the company’s wind energy assets in Bulgaria and has been the company’s CFO in Turkey.
What are the benefits of installing more wind on a European scale?
Wind energy is a valuable asset for the European economy. The sector contributes €37bn to EU GDP and employs 300,000 people. Wind energy has proved resilient to the COVID-19 crisis, a free and abundant local resource available without significant human intervention. The existing wind farms in Europe did not stop working during the pandemic. The industry continued to install new capacity, connecting 14.7 GW to the grid in 2020 (onshore wind energy is 80% of it). Europe invested €42.8bn in new wind farms in 2020, the second highest annual amount on record and a significant increase of 75% compared to the previous year.
Wind energy covered 16% of Europe’s electricity demand. This categorically leads to the conclusion that wind energy has the necessary characteristics to play a key role in the green economic recovery. Wind energy directly benefits local communities. Wind farms are often located in remote areas with low investment activity, cut off from fast-growing large economic centers. The benefits of developing wind energy are not limited to creating new jobs. Wind farms contribute significantly to the local economy by paying taxes and fees, which are a major part of local municipality revenues. The wind energy industry paid €5.2bn taxes of which €1bn were not linked to corporate profits and were mostly destined to local governments and communities. The total taxes paid by wind energy have increased 52% compared to 2011.
Taxes then finance new infrastructure or upgrades to the existing ones, as well as social programmes for education, health care and recreational activities. All this contributes to social welfare and economic development at local level. The development of technology and the price of carbon emissions in recent years have increased the competitiveness of wind energy, which has reached levels below average market electricity levels, being significantly cheaper than other operating conventional energy sources. The supply of wind electricity would undoubtedly have a favorable effect on the competitiveness of industry and the cost of electricity for households. These economic benefits are in addition to the undeniable environmental and health effects of reducing the carbon footprint of electricity generation.
What financial mechanisms of wind energy projects will be available in the coming years?
Wind farms require high upfront investment, but they have very low running costs. In order to secure the necessary funding, these projects must certify the existence of stable and guaranteed revenues for a period of 10-15 years.This makes financing a very significant share of their overall cost. For a wind farm whose revenues are created by selling power on the market without any form of revenue stabilisation, i.e. a merchant project, these costs could be as high as 60% of the total lifetime costs. Thus it is essential to minimise finance costs to ensure the viability of projects Having a predictable income from stable revenues is the most important factor to minimize financing costs for wind farms.
One way to stabilize revenues is through capacity auctions, in which governments can identify projects that would achieve the lowest average energy price and ensure that this price is repaid by concluding the so-called Contracts for difference (CfD). This mechanism ensures security and predictability of revenues to financing institutions, which in turn would provide financing at more favorable interest rates, reducing project costs and thus the price of electricity for end suppliers. Corporate renewable PPAs can also provide revenue stabilization if an off-taker agrees a fixed price for the electricity in a long-term contract. Corporate renewable PPAs are taking off in Europe with the market increasing by 50% in 2020 alone. This is driven by increased demand for renewable electricity from corporates and developers increasingly looking to secure their revenues in the absence of enough government revenue stability mechanisms and striving to reduce and even eliminate their carbon footprint.