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Wind energy needs to triple to reach net zero by 2050

With 93GW - a 53% year-on-year increase - of new capacity installed, 2020 was the best year in history for the global wind industry, 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.
Wind energy needs to triple to reach net zero by 2050
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 across the world. In 2020, record growth was driven by a surge of installations in China and the US – 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 743GW of wind power capacity worldwide, helping to avoid over 1.1-billion tonnes of CO2 globally – equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of South America.

Yet, as the clean energy technology with the most decarbonisation 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 now to scale up wind power at the necessary pace.

According to the scenarios that have been established by international energy bodies such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world needs to be installing a minimum of 180GW 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 280GW 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 deployment

Climate emergency approach

GWEC is calling on policymakers to take a true ‘climate emergency’ approach to allow a faster ramp up including:
  • Eliminating red tape and reforming administrative structures in order to speed up and streamline licensing and permitting for projects
  • Carry out a massive increase in investments in grid, ports and other infrastructure needed to allow the ramp up in installations
  • Revamp energy markets to ensure that they account for the true social costs of polluting fossil fuels and facilitate a rapid transition to a system based on renewable energy

“People and governments around the world are realising that we have a limited window to head off dangerous climate change. 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 US last year, but now we need the rest of the world to step up to get us where we need to be.

"Our current market forecasts show that 469GW of new wind power capacity will be installed over the next five years. But we need to be installing at least 180GW of new capacity every year through 2025 to ensure we remain on the right path to limit global warming well below 2°C - meaning we are currently on-track to be 86GW short on average each year. And these installation levels will need to scale up to 280GW beyond 2030 to deliver carbon neutrality by mid-century. Every year we fall short, the mountain to climb in the years ahead gets higher," Ben Backwell, CEO at GWEC says.
Read more: report, wind power, net zero

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