Wind power could supply one-fifth of total global energy demands by 2030, according to a new report from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Greenpeace International.
The report investigates a variety of different scenarios for the industry’s development and future levels of electricity demand. It says that the total installed capacity could more than quadruple, from the 240GW installed at the end of 2011, to 1,100GW by the year 2020. And could then supply between 11.7% and 12.6% percent of global electricity demand, potentially stopping over 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Some of the less ambitious scenarios predict that total capacity may only make it to 587GW–759GW by then, ‘only’ providing ~8.3% of global electricity supply.
While wind energy has been proving itself as very cost competitive with fossil fuels, and is clearly going to play a major role in the world’s energy future, it will need the help of better governmental renewable energy policies to reach its full potential, according to the Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, Steve Sawyer.
He said that it’s necessary for governments to quickly develop renewable energy policies “to address the climate crisis, while there’s still time.”
His thoughts were repeated by Sven Teske, Greenpeace’s senior energy expert: “the most important ingredient for the long term success of the wind industry is stable, long term policy, sending a clear signal to investors about the government’s vision for the scope and potential for the technology.”
One of the most interesting parts of the report was the statistic that 2.1 million people could be employed in the global wind industry by 2020 (more than 3 times the number today)… of course, with good policy support.
The report also notes that the industry is likely to slow down somewhat over the next couple of years, following the rapid growth that has occurred recently.
“After 15 years of average cumulative growth rates of about 28 per cent, the commercial wind power installations in about 80 countries at the end of last year totalled about 240GW, having increased by more than 40 times over that same period,” the report said.
“There are many exciting new markets in Latin America, Africa and Asia where we see major potential for growth in the medium to long term; but absent a new means for putting a global price on carbon, new demand growth in the OECD borne on a strong economic recovery, or some other unforeseen development, the industry’s rate of growth will slow substantially in the coming few years.”
The IEA projections offer the most pessimistic scenario, predicting that the annual global wind energy market won’t grow or shrink through to 2015, but will then contract to 10 percent below 2011 levels from 2015-2020.
The most optimistic scenarios greatly contrast that, though, seeing a significant recovery in growth rates around 2015-2020. This recovery is expected to be caused by “stable policy environments” and continued technological improvements, “resulting in installed capacity of either 1,600GW or 2,500GW by 2030,” with the latter projected to supply enough electricity for about 1/5 of projected electricity demand at that time.