Global Wind Energy Council: Wind Could Supply 41% of World’s Electricity Demand by 2050

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) is out with the sixth edition of its annual Global Wind Energy Outlook, “looking at the future of our industry out to 2020, 2030 and ultimately to 2050.” The full report is available for download at GWEC’s website, but for now, here are a few highlights (bolding added for emphasis) and graphs.

  • Wind power booms, the only question being how rapidly. See the graphic below, and note that wind power could make up anywhere from 11% to 20% of world power demand in 2030, and from 18% to 41% in 2050, depending on the scenario.
  • The “Advanced Scenario” is the most ambitious, assuming “an unambiguous commitment to renewable energy in line with industry recommendations, the political will to commit to appropriate policies and the political stamina to stick with them.” It also assumes that “governments enact clear and effective policies on carbon emission reductions in line with the now universally agreed objective of keeping global mean temperature rise below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures.”
  • In contrast, the “New Policies Scenario” is the least optimistic, assuming “current directions and intentions of both national and international energy and climate policy, even though they may not yet have been incorporated into formal decisions or enacted into law.”

  • The cost of wind power declines in all scenarios, but particularly in the “Advanced” case. “In the [Moderate Scenario] prices drop to about €1,518/kw in 2020 and to €1,445/kw by 2030; and in the Advanced Scenario, with rapid scale up, costs drop more rapidly, down to €1,452 by 2020 and to €1,379 by 2030.”
  • Onshore wind power has become the least cost option when adding new capacity to the grid in an increasing number of markets, and prices continue to fall. Also, we have recently seen record low prices in the offshore wind sector.
  • CO2 emissions are billions of tons lower than they would have been without the massive scaling of wind power.
  • “The [Moderate Scenario] implies savings of over 1.17 billion tonnes of CO2 /annum by 2020 and more than 2.6 billion tonnes by 2030; while the GWEO [Advanced Scenario] would result in savings of nearly 1.29 billion tonnes of CO2 per year by 2020, and 3.3 billion tonnes/annum by 2030.”
  • “Over the long-term the [Advanced Scenario] will bring almost double the savings in CO2 annually. In 2050 the [Advanced Scenario] is foreseen to bring about 9.2 billion tonnes of CO2 emission reduction annually. In comparison the 450 Scenario forecasts annual CO2 emission reduction of 5.6 billion tonnes.”

Finally, here are a few other points from the report worth noting:

  • The global wind industry “had another record year in 2015, with annual installations topping 63 GW. Overall, by the end of 2015, there were about 433 GW of wind power spinning around the globe, a 17% increase over the previous year; and wind power supplied more new power generation than any other technology.”
  • “Asia is the world’s largest regional wind market with an overall total installed capacity of 175.8 GW…The United States is the single largest market in terms of total installed capacity after China…Across Europe there are now 147.7 GW installed, out of which 141.6 GW are in the EU…Latin America and the Caribbean has a total installed capacity of 12.2 GW…The Africa and Middle East region saw 953 MW of new capacity additions in 2015, bringing cumulative capacity for the region up to 3,489 MW.”
  • “Wind power requires no water. IRENA analysis finds that doubling the share of renewable energy, in particular solar PV and wind, could reduce water withdrawals in the power sector as much as 52% in the UK, 37% in the US, 32% in Australia, 28% in Germany and 12% in India.”
  • “Doubling the share of renewables would also decrease harmful emissions from pollutants such as ammonia, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and sulphur dioxide by 82%, 33%, 27% and 12% respectively, saving up to 4 million lives per year by 2030.”
  • Wind has become a mainstream power source,” supplying around 4% of world power demand and growing rapidly, while prices have fallen sharply.
  • Wind power technology continues to improve as well: “One of the reasons for the recent reductions in tender prices for offshore wind is the availability of the new range of 7 and 8 MW machines – the bigger and more powerful the machine, the fewer expensive foundations and support structures are required, thereby lowering the cost of energy.”
  • Wind has boomed in spite of continued enormous subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, “from a low of $US 5-600 million/annum, up to more than $US 5 trillion according to the International Monetary Fund, which includes the damage to climate, human health and the biosphere.”
  • “Stable and predictable government policies” remain important for continued “steady growth and development of the renewable energy sector.”
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