Wind To Supply 20% Of Global Power By 2030?
By Paul Homewood
Wind power could supply up to 20 per cent of the world’s power needs by 2030, according to new analysis.
In its latest Wind Energy Outlook, released this week, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) predicted that worldwide wind capacity could reach 2110 GW by 2030, with annual investment in the sector growing to €200bn ($220bn). By 2050, under GWEC’s best-case scenario, global installations could reach 5800 GW.
The world’s wind power installations totalled 433 GW at the end of 2015, with a record number of new projects amounting to 63 GW and representing a 17 per cent increase on 2014, the report found. China maintained its lead with capacity additions of 30.8 GW and an installed base of 145 GW, followed by the US with 74 GW, Germany with 45 GW, India at 25 GW, Spain with 23 GW and the UK with 13 GW. Also in 2015, Brazil entered the 10 GW+ bracket for the first time.
And the industry is set to grow by around 60 GW in 2016, GWEC predicted. However, challenges still remain for many regional markets. In Europe, where there are 148 GW installed, a cocktail of policy changes, economic crises and austerity measures is viewed as likely to produce a “difficult” year ahead, although a shift in investment away from fossil fuel-fired power could provide a boost, GWEC noted. In Asia, curtailment due to transmission bottlenecks remains a significant problem in the largest market, China, and a slowdown could be seen in 2017. Continuing growth is predicted for North America, where the US is experiencing a ‘wind rush’ due to unwonted policy stability.
“With new markets developing rapidly across Africa, Asia and Latin America; unprecedented policy stability in the US market; strong and continued commitment from India and China; and the rapidly dropping prices for wind power both on and offshore – on the whole things look very good for the industry,” GWEC said, adding that “but of course much could go wrong…history rarely follows the smooth curves in this and other reports. But at least now the direction of travel is the clearest it has ever been.”
The full report is available here.
We need to remember that the GWEC exists to promote the interests of wind farm operators, so we need to take this with a large pinch of salt. And as they say themselves, but of course much could go wrong…history rarely follows the smooth curves in this and other reports.
The target of 2110 GW is actually derived from their Advanced Scenario, the most optimistic of four. It would imply capacity of 112 GW added each year up to 2030, nearly double that added in 2015.
Their base case, New Policies Scenario, is much more realistic, already taking account of Paris and other commitments made by governments. Under this, wind capacity would be much lower by 2030, at 1259 GW.
But even assuming that the higher projection is correct, there is still another problem. The claim that wind could supply 20% of the world’s power is based on CURRENT electricity consumption.
It is widely accepted that electricity demand will increase sharply in years to come. The BP Energy Outlook reckons that demand will increase by 43% by 2035.
If we assume a figure of 40% for 2030, the claimed 20% share actually drops to 14%. The more realistic New Policies Scenario only amounts to 8%, compared to a current level of 3%.
And, of course, there is one more fly in the ointment – electricity only accounts for a fraction of total energy consumption. According to BP, the share of power generation will be 45%.
In other words, wind power will be unlikely to supply more than 4% of global energy consumption even by 2030.
And the cost for this paltry contribution? $220 billion a year, or $3.3 trillion in total.