A new report compiled by Greenpeace International and the Global Wind Energy Council on the future of the wind industry and released yesterday in Beijing says wind power could supply up to 12 percent of global electricity by 2020, creating 1.4 million new jobs and reducing CO2 emissions by more than 1.5 billion tons per year, more than 5 times today’s level. By 2030, wind power could provide more than 20% of global electricity supply.
The fourth edition of the bi-annual Global Wind Energy Outlook report points to three different futures for the wind industry, looking at scenarios out to 2020, 2030, and eventually to 2050. It then measures these scenarios against two different projections for the development of electricity demand: the first based on the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook, and another, more energy efficient future developed by the ECOFYS consultancy and researchers at the University of Utrecht.
In addition to being a major source of emission reductions, wind energy also uses no fresh water to generate electricity, a unique attribute (along with solar PV) which makes it an attractive option in an increasingly water-constrained world.
Like solar, wind power is by definition an indigenous energy sources, which could release countries with large fossil fuel import bills from this financial burden. It already is price competitive in several markets, even when competing against heavily subsidized dirty energy types.
“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”, said Sven Teske, Greenpeace senior energy expert. “The Global Wind Energy Outlook shows that the industry could employ 2.1 million people by 2020 – 3 times more than today, given the right policy support.”
Wind energy installations totaled 240 GW globally by the end of 2011, and the industry is set to grow by at least another 40 GW in 2012. By 2020, the IEA’s New Policies Scenario suggests that total capacity would reach 587 GW, supplying about 6% of global electricity; but the GWEO Moderate scenario suggests that this could reach 759 GW, supplying 7.7-8.3% of global electricity supply. The Advanced scenario suggests that with the right policy support wind power could reach more than 1,100 GW by 2020, supplying between 11.7-12.6% of global electricity, and saving nearly 1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.