Wind turbines need to quadruple to reach net zero targets: GWEC

Onshore and offshore wind turbines photographed in Flevoland, the Netherlands.

Mischa Keijser | Image source | Getty Images

The wind energy sector had its second-best year in 2021, but future installations will need to increase dramatically to reach net-zero targets, according to a new report from the Global Wind Energy Council.

GWEC’s 2022 Global Wind Report, released Monday, says 93.6 gigawatts of capacity were installed last year, down slightly from the 95.3 GW installed in 2020. Cumulative capacity increased to 837 GW. Capacity refers to the maximum amount of power plants that can be produced, not what they necessarily produce.

In summary, the offshore wind segment installed 21.1 GW in 2021, its best year ever. Onshore wind installations last year were 72.5 GW compared to 88.4 GW in 2020.

According to GWEC – whose membership includes firms such as Vestas, Orsted and Shell – China and the US were the main drivers behind the decline in onshore installations

For China, where 30.7 GW were installed in 2021, up from over 50 GW in 2020, the GWEC cited the end of the country’s feed-in tariff as the reason for the drop.

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The US installed 12.7 GW of onshore capacity in 2021, a decrease of 4.16 GW compared to 2020. The GWEC pointed to factors such as “disruptions due to COVID-19 and supply chain issues” that “will limit execution of project construction from Q3 2021 slowed”. further.”

Net Zero Concerns

Alongside its data, the GWEC report also issued a warning and called for significant capacity building.

“At current installation rates,” it says, “GWEC Market Intelligence forecasts that by 2030 we will have less than two-thirds of the wind energy capacity required for a 1.5°C and net-zero path, giving us effectively doomed to miss our climate goals.”

The report later added that global wind turbines “need to quadruple within this decade from the 94 GW installed in 2021 to meet our 2050 targets.”

The number 1.5 refers to the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to limit global warming “to well below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and was adopted in December 2015.

According to the United Nations, emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 for global warming to be “maintained at no more than 1.5°C”.

Monday’s GWEC report called for, among other things, a streamlining of permitting procedures and “a stronger international regulatory framework to counter increasing competition for raw materials and critical minerals.”

Huge hurdles

In a statement Monday, GWEC CEO Ben Backwell said that “expanding growth to the levels needed to reach net-zero and achieve energy security requires a new, more proactive approach to policy-making around the world.” world will require”.

“The events of the last year, which have seen global economies and consumers exposed to extreme volatility in fossil fuel consumption and high prices, are a symptom of a hesitant and disorderly energy transition,” Backwell continued.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “revealed the impact of reliance on fossil fuel imports on energy security.”

“The last 12 months should be a major wake-up call that we must move forward with determination and transition to 21st century renewable energy systems.”

It’s no surprise that organizations like the GWEC are calling for an increase in renewable energy, but achieving any kind of meaningful change in the planet’s energy mix is ​​a monumental task.

Fossil fuels are an integral part of the global energy mix and companies continue to discover and develop oil and gas fields in locations around the world.

In fact, the International Energy Agency reported in March that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose to their highest levels in history in 2021. The IEA found that energy-related global CO2 emissions rose 6% in 2021 to a record high of 36.3 billion tonnes.

In the same month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also warned that the planet emerged from last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow with “a certain naïve optimism” and was “sleepwalking into a climate catastrophe”.

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