Global wind power to hit 2000GW by 2030

The UK's recent surge in wind power output appears to be reflective of a global trend, with new analysis estimating that global wind-generated energy could supply up to 20% of the world's electricity by 2030.

The analysis, unveiled today by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Greenpeace International, indicates that wind power capacity will hit 2,000GW; creating over two million green jobs and reducing CO2 emissions by more than three billion tonnes a year.

“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”, said GWEC chief executive Steve Sawyer.

“Given the urgency to cut down CO2 emissions and continued reliance on imported fossil fuels, wind power’s pivotal role in the world’s future energy supply is assured.”

The analysis presents three visions of the future of the global wind energy industry out to 2020, 2030 and up to 2050 – by which point wind power could provide 25-30% of global electricity supply.

Ideal technology

Wind energy installations totalled 318 gigawatts (GW) globally by the end of 2013, and the industry is set to grow by another 45 GW in 2014. As reported by edie this week, a blustery Sunday (19 October) saw 24% of the UK’s electricity supplied by wind, following a record-breaking summer for the renewables industry.

Commenting on today’s analysis, Greenpeace International’s senior energy expert Sven Teske argues that wind power’s scalability and speed of deployment makes it an ideal technology to bring about much-needed early emissions reductions.

“By 2020, wind power could prevent more than one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted each year by dirty energy – equivalent to the emissions of Germany and Italy combined,” said Teske. “Policymakers need to provide economic incentives, and also leadership if they are to achieve a credible international climate agreement at next year’s Summit in Paris.”

The power sector is responsible for more than 40% of all carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, and about 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions. The GWEC and Greenpeace analysis concluded that, if global emissions are to peak and decline in this decade – as the science shows is necessary in order to meet climate protection goals – one focus has to be the power sector.

Wind v shale

The analysis comes as the UK’s breezy conditions look set to continue, with remnants of hurricane Gonzalo beginning to batter Britain. Gusts of up to 75mph in coastal areas and 65mph inland are tearing across much of the country – the renewables industry is hoping wind speeds don’t get too high as some turbines have to be deactivated in winds above 62mph.

It also coincides with a seperate Greenpeace Energydesk investigation in the US, which highlighted that wind power, not shale gas, was the biggest single cause of the fall in US carbon emissions from coal use.

Despite the fanfare surrounding the shale gas boom, of the 16% fall in US carbon emissions since 2007, only around a third (30%) came from switching from coal to gas because natural gas still emits CO2. By contrast, 40% came from the switch from coal to renewables and the remaining 30% from improved efficiency.

Luke Nicholls

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