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Results on Wind Energy

R&D investments in wind energy

An interpretation of the R&D investments broken down per technology as shown in the following needs to take into account the associated uncertainties described in section 'Analysis of uncertainties'. In specific cases these may be higher than the actual differences in the R&D investments between individual technologies, therefore impeding a direct comparison between different sectors.

Europe is leading in wind energy, holding a 61% share of the globally installed wind energy capacity in 2007 and accounting for 7 of the top 10 wind suppliers in 2006 (EUROBSERV'ER, 2008a). Given the high global investments in this technology (around US$50 billion in 2007; Boyle et al., 2008) and Europe's strong position in this market, it is not surprising that research investments in the EU reached €383 million in 2007.

With wind energy in general being considered a rather mature technology, R&D investments are clearly dominated by industry, accounting for three quarters of the total. The comparably elevated maturity of wind energy would also be supported by wind energy showing the largest share of support to demonstration activities within the aggregated national R&D investments across all technologies considered.

Both corporate and public investments mostly occured in those EU Member States that have a large wind energy share and industry (Germany, Denmark or Spain). The large public budgets of other Member States may be explained by plans that aim at actively increasing their wind energy share, such as the UK with ambitious offshore wind plans. However, even if the above Member States accounted for some 90% of the EU aggregated funds, also other Member States such as Italy, Sweden or France invested in wind energy related research. The EU funds that were dedicated to wind energy projects within FP6 remained limited.

Compared to the year 2006, the estimated corporate R&D investments in wind energy increased significantly (by an order of magnitude above 20%) to reach €292 million in 2007 while public national funds showed a small decrease (-7%). The EU funds under FP6 amounted to around €43 million over the period 2002-6 (or €11 million on an annual average), a figure which is similar to the one estimated by Langlois d'Estainot (2009).

The aggregated R&D investment of EU-based companies (€292 million in 2007) is the result of an assessment of 13 companies. Companies being entirely or mostly active in this sector such as Vestas, Gamesa, Enercon, Nordex and RE Power are among the largest investors.

Results wind energy

Figure 12: Approximate R&D investment in wind energy from industry and public sectors

Source: Own analysis based on IEA RD&D statistics and official information from some Member States; FP6; EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard

Note: Some EU Member States are not IEA member and do thus not figure in the database; for others no data are available. Irish data refer to the year 2006. R&D investments for Belgium cannot be displayed at the current scale of the chart.

The corporate R&D investment of €292 million compares relatively well to the results of other studies:

  • The Technology Platform Wind assumed corporate R&D investments of a set of 6 selected companies to be in the order of €175 million in 20061 (TP Wind, 2008), based on an approach similar to the one used here. The differences to the present report can be accounted for by the extended research scope of the present study, covering 13 companies.
  • The SRS project estimated the corporate R&D investment allocated to wind energy to be in the order of €110 million for 2005. The discrepancy to the assessment in the present report may be explained by the lack of data for countries with an important wind industry (such as Germany and Spain). Furthermore, the R&D investments of the wind industry have been growing substantially in recent years, explaining another part of the differences in the results of the SRS and the present report.
  • The comparison of the corporate R&D investments with the turnover of the European wind energy sector further confirms the result of this work. Assuming its turnover to have been in the order of €11.3 billion2(Zervos et al., 2008), the results of the present report would thus indicate an R&D intensity of this sector of 2.6%-3.0%. This is considerably above the low R&D intensities of companies active in the electricity sector (0.6%) and oil and gas producers (0.3%) and in the order of magnitude of producers of electrical components and equipment (3.4%) and industrial machinery (2.6%) (Hernandez et al., 2008). Considering that the selection of companies associated with research on wind energy made in the present report consists of companies from all of the above sectors with a focus on component suppliers and specialised wind energy turbine producers, this comparison supports the finding of the present assessment.3

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Data are corrected from the original report as Nordex had been counted twice.

The turnover of the European wind industry was estimated to have been around €9 billion in 2006 (EWEA, 2007). Extrapolating this into 2007 would result in an approximate turnover of €10 billion (EUROBSERV'ER, 2008a), supporting the figure provided by Zervos et al., 2008.

From this comparison one cannot derive whether the R&D intensity of the sector is sufficient or not. For deriving such a conclusion, it may be more appropriate to compare with R&D intensities of other rapidly developing sectors as done in chapter 4 despite some methodological problems that may arise when linking distinct sectors with different innovation systems.>