Europe’s right-wing swing may stall energy transition momentum

Europe’s right-wing swing may stall energy transition momentum

Gains by right wing parties in the recent European Parliament elections may stall the development of a slew of renewable energy projects across Europe.

Populist, nationalist and euroskeptic parties are on course to win just under a quarter of seats in the next European Union (EU) assembly, according to the chamber’s own projections.

And with nationalist prime ministers already leading Hungary, Italy and Slovakia, and right-wing parties gaining influence in Germany, France, Spain and The Netherlands, the tenor of Europe’s political landscape looks set for an overhaul.

Spiraling living costs and concerns over rapid rises in immigration were major drivers of votes for right wing parties across the region, who will now help set European Union policies for the next five years.

Pushback against the mounting costs of the green energy transition was also a vote-getter in countries with large farming sectors that have been hit hard by rising energy and fertilizer costs in recent years.

A more right-leaning parliament may make it harder to pass ambitious climate policies during the upcoming term, and may even lead to the scrapping of some renewable energy development plans if project timetables get extended or pricing terms get revised unfavorably.

Clean pipeline

Across Europe as a whole, there are roughly 650,000 megawatts (MW) of clean energy capacity in pre-construction, which is when plans are designed and the necessary permits and resources are lined up, Global Energy Monitor (GEM) data shows.

That planned total compares to around 714,000 MW of clean energy capacity already in operation across Europe, and means that Europe’s total clean generation capacity would roughly double if all the pre-construction projects come to life.

Just over 75% of Europe’s clean energy projects in pre-construction are within the 27 nations that form the European Union, and so may now come under closer scrutiny by incoming parliament members who may not share the same ambitions as their predecessors.


Of the roughly 491,000 MW of clean energy capacity in pre-construction within the EU, 61% is for wind projects and 35% for solar farms.

Nuclear reactors account for an additional 3% of the planned clean capacity, while hydro dams account for a further 2%.

Around 25,000 MW of oil and gas infrastructure are also in the pre-construction phase, compared to around 195,000 MW of oil and gas projects already in operation, GEM data shows.

Regionally, Northern Europe hosts the lion’s share of planned projects, with just over 302,000 MW of clean capacity in pre-construction.

Southern Europe has the next largest share of planned clean capacity, with around 250,000 MW, followed by Western Europe’s 57,300 MW. Eastern Europe has around 40,160 MW of clean capacity in pre-construction.

Wind vs solar, north vs south

Wind farms account for 85% of the planned capacity in Northern Europe, where wind power currently accounts for around 43% of operating clean power capacity.

The roughly 256,000 MW of wind projects in pre-construction compares to just under 68,000 MW of wind capacity already in operation in Northern Europe, and so would result in a nearly four-fold jump in wind capacity if completed.

Sweden has the largest pipeline of wind capacity in pre-construction (95,516 MW), followed by the United Kingdom (89,063 MW), Ireland (37,772 MW), Spain (33,943 MW) and Italy (29,464 MW).

Greece, Denmark and The Netherlands also have large wind development plans in the pre-construction phase.

In Southern Europe, solar power holds the largest share (60%) of the 250,000 MW of clean capacity pipeline in pre-construction.

Of the nearly 150,000 MW of solar in pre-construction in Southern Europe, Spain (86,762 MW) and Greece (52,323 MW) account for the largest pipelines.

In Eastern Europe, nuclear plants account for the largest share of the 40,159 MW of clean power capacity in pre-construction (17,000 MW), followed by 13,149 MW of wind projects and around 5,500 MW of solar.

Western Europe’s largest pipeline in pre-construction is wind power, accounting for around 40,500 MW of the 57,300 MW total planned clean capacity.

Political fallout

The rise in right wing candidates across Europe does not necessarily mean there will be greater opposition to clean energy projects, as many policymakers view greater supplies of home-grown energy as a source of national security and jobs.

But many of the incoming bureaucrats who are riding the populist wave of support may hold other priorities, such as promoting economic growth and low-cost manufacturing bases, over power sector decarbonization.

As such, these lawmakers may have the power to slow or blunt legislation that aims to speed up Europe’s energy transition, which could result in fewer clean capacity projects reaching completion than are currently planned. [Reuters]

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