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Britain, Italy top picks for windpower investment

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Germany and Spain will provide Europe’s biggest growth in windpower over the next decade but Britain and Italy might give the best returns on investment, the head of the European Wind Energy Association said on Friday.

Wind generators are seen in a farm in the countryside near the Sicilian town of Catania, southern Italy, November 11, 2009. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

“We believe Germany and Spain will continue to be the two biggest markets in terms of new wind capacity in the next 12 years, with the UK and France right behind them, then Italy,” EWEA chief executive Christian Kjaer told reporters.

EWEA forecast in a report launched on Friday that 25.1 gigawatts of wind capacity would be installed in Germany between 2009 and 2020, 23.3 gigawatts in Spain, 22.8 in Britain and 19.6 in France.

But the support mechanisms for renewable energy in Britain and Italy generate the most favorable returns for large-scale investments.

“If I could get planning permission, I would invest in onshore wind energy in the UK or Italy,” Kjaer said. “Both pay very good prices per kilowatt hour.”

“That said, there is more uncertainty than in countries such as Germany and France where you’d know your income for the next 20 years, because of the feed-in tariffs. So, if I’d burned my fingers in the financial crisis, I’d put my money in France or Germany.”

Are there any gems among Europe’s smaller countries?

“Portugal has been one for many years,” Kjaer said. “And there are gems among the new (eastern) member states, but that depends on your risk profile.”

Wind power provides a greater share of national electricity in Denmark than any other European Union country, at 20.3 percent, the report showed, followed by Spain at 12.3 percent and Portugal at 11.4.

Britain and France take 9th and 12th place, largely because their complex planning regulations have hampered the growth of the windpower market so far.

Sweden joins France in 12th position because until now biomass has been the cheapest source of renewable energy.

“Wind is the second-cheapest option in Sweden, and the potential of biomass is nearly taken up, so we know the Swedish market for wind is going to grow this year,” Kjaer said.

Reporting by Pete Harrison, editing by Anthony Barker

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