WIND energy has maintained its position as Europe’s second largest form of power generation and is likely to overtake natural gas installations this year, although the future remains uncertain according to new figures.

Industry body WindEurope said yesterday that the EU had a total installed capacity last year of 178.8GW on and offshore, providing 14% of the bloc’s electricity – up from 12% in 2017. Denmark had the highest share of wind in its power mix with 41%, followed by Ireland (28%) and Portugal (24%).

It said the UK was the biggest wind investor in 2018, with €5.9 billion (£5.1bn) of financing for new wind farms, more of which (90%) was offshore. The UK also had the biggest increase of wind in its electricity mix, rising from 13.5% in 2017 to 18% last year.

However, Europe installed only 11.7GW of gross additional wind power capacity last year – a drop of a third compared to 2017. It also decommissioned 0.4GW of wind energy installations.

WindEurope’s CEO, Giles Dickson, conceded the figures were not all good news.

He said: “Wind energy now provides 14% of the EU’s electricity, up from 12% in one year. More and more people and businesses are benefitting from the clean and affordable power that wind delivers.

“But beneath the surface many things are not right. Last year was the worst year for new wind energy installations since 2011.

“Growth in onshore wind fell by over half in Germany and collapsed in the UK. And 12 EU countries didn’t install a single wind turbine last year.

“Investments in future capacity were quite good last year thanks to the UK, Spain, Sweden – and thanks also to the further expansion of offshore wind.”

Dickson said the outlook for investment was uncertain, adding: “There are structural problems in permitting, especially in Germany and France. And with the noble exception of Lithuania and despite improvements in Poland, there’s a lack of ambition in Central and Eastern Europe.

“The 2030 national energy and climate plans are a chance to put things right. But the draft plans are badly lacking in detail: on policy measures, auction volumes, how to ease permitting and remove other barriers to wind investments, and how to expand the grid. Governments need to sort this out before they finalise the Plans this year.”

Dr Sam Gardner, deputy director of WWF Scotland said: “While it’s great to see continued growth in renewable electricity across Europe it is concerning that future investment looks far less certain.

“We are facing a climate crisis that threatens to accelerate the sixth mass extinction of the natural world.

“We must accelerate our efforts to replace fossil fuels rather than place barriers in their path.

“Here in Scotland the wind sector is already playing a hugely important part in cutting climate emissions, creating jobs and keeping the lights on.

“If the industry is to be able to push on and play its full part in securing a zero carbon economy the UK Government must provide onshore wind, the cheapest form of electricity generation, with a route to market.”