Wind power to hit 2000 GW by 2030, says a new report

Ilario D'Amato
21 October 2014

LONDON: Wind capacity could reach 2,000 gigawatts (GW) globally and meet up to 19% of electricity demand by 2030, avoiding over 3 billion tons of CO2 a year and creating 2 million jobs and US$180 billion investments.

The predictions are included in the report Global Wind Energy Outlook 2014 that Greenpeace and Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) released today, which shows how wind can spur the transition toward a low carbon economy.

The power sector is the largest single contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, counting for a quarter of it - and about 40% of all energy related CO2 emissions - so a cleaner energy system is crucial for a cleaner world. So far, 90 countries have adopted wind power systems, with a total installed capacity of 318 GW at the end of 2013. However, this number only represents about 3% of global electricity supply for that year.

The wind power industry has grown at around 26% per year over the past 18 years, and this year, is set to grow by another 45 GW. But without any policy intervention, this growth is set to shrink.

For this report, the two international organizations have developed two scenarios in collaboration with the German Aerospace Centre (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft-und-Raumfahrt, DLR): “Moderate” and “Advanced”. The first one refers to a world in which wind power grows but has to struggle with other heavily subsidized powers as well as some policy uncertainty; the second refers to a scenario where there is strong international commitment toward climate change policies, with the potential of wind power to produce up to 30% of global electricity by 2050.

Both scenarios are compared against the “New Policies” scenario, which is based on an assessment of current directions and intentions of both national and international energy and climate policy.

To achieve these important goals, the report indicates a three-legged approach: concentrating on energy efficiency for the short term, switching from coal to gas, and for the long-term, accelerating the growth of renewable energy. Under the “Moderate” scenario, this can cause an annual increment of 85 GW per year and a total 1,500 GW globally by the end of 2030; the “Advanced” scenario brings these figures to 90 GW per year with a total of 2,000 GW.

Last year, the market attracted about US$56 billion, and without substantial intervention this number will not change much. However, under the Moderate scenario it increases to US$102 billion by 2020 and to US$130 billion per year by 2030 - and in the Advanced scenario rises to US$132 billion by 2020, and then to US$180 billion by 2030.

At the moment, the industry employs about 600,000 people, but this number can grow to over 824,000 by 2015, 1.1 million by 2020, and to 1.5 million by 2030 in the Moderate scenario, and to about 900,000 by 2015, 1.45 million by 2020, reaching nearly 2.2 million by 2030 in the Advanced.

Annual reductions in CO2 from existing wind power plants were about 372 million tons in 2013. In cumulative terms, the Moderate scenario results in over 7.5 billion tons of CO2 savings by 2020, and 24.1 billion tons by 2030; in the Advanced scenario, cumulative CO2 savings are nearly 7.9 billion tons by 2020, and 28.6 billion tons by 2030.

These numbers show how wind power can accelerate the world’s transition to a prosperous, low carbon economy. “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,” underlines Sven Teske, Greenpeace’s senior energy expert.

Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, agrees renewables like wind power are critical for generating jobs and boosting the economy, a trend that is already being recognized by leading corporates: Speaking at last month’s Climate Week NYC, he said: “The clean energy and technology sectors are driving growth and job creation at a far more rapid rate than the rest of the economy. This is where our best hope for recovery and continued prosperity now lies. The major acceleration in investment here shows this is where smart business is heading.”

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