With 93 GW of new capacity installed, 2020 was the best year in history for the global wind industry – a 53% year-over-year increase – but a new report published by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) warns that this growth is not sufficient to ensure the world achieves net-zero by 2050.
According to the Global Wind Report 2021, the world needs to be installing wind power three times faster over the next decade in order to stay on a net-zero pathway and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Through technology innovations and economies of scale, the global wind power market has nearly quadrupled in size over the past decade and established itself as one of the most cost-competitive and resilient power sources. In 2020, record growth was driven by a surge of installations in China and the U.S – the world’s two largest wind power markets – who together installed 75% of the new installations in 2020 and account for over half of the world’s total wind power capacity. Today, there is now 743 GW of wind power capacity worldwide.
Yet, as the clean energy technology with the most decarbonization potential per MW, the report shows that the current rate of wind power deployment will not be enough to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of this century, and urgent action must be taken by policymakers to scale up wind power at the necessary pace.
According to the scenarios that have been established by international energy bodies such as IRENA and the IEA, the world needs to be installing a minimum of 180 GW of new wind energy every year to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and will need to install up to 280 GW annually to maintain a pathway compliant with meeting net-zero by 2050. This means that the industry and policymakers need to work collaboratively and act fast to accelerate its deployment.
“People and governments around the world are realizing that we have a limited window to head off dangerous climate change,” says Ben Backwell, CEO at GWEC. “While many major economies have announced long-term net-zero targets, we need to make sure that urgent and meaningful actions are taken now to make sure this ambition is matched with fast-growing investment and installations of renewable power on the ground and in the water. It is really encouraging to see record growth in China and U.S. last year but now we need the rest of the world to step up to get us where we need to be.”
The wind industry must work together with governments, communities, as well as other sectors such as solar, storage, oil and gas to find solutions to accelerate the energy transition as efficiently as possible. Wind power – both onshore and offshore – will play a crucial role in driving the commercialization of cost-competitive power solutions.