Wind power installations must quadruple to meet net-zero goals: GWEC

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

Micha Keijser | Source of images | Getty Images

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

Released on Monday, GWEC’s Global Wind Report 2022 says 93.6 gigawatts of capacity was installed last year, slightly less than the 95.3 GW installed in 2020. Cumulative capacity rose to 837 GW. Capacity refers to the maximum amount of electricity that facilities can produce, not what they necessarily produce.

Breaking things down, the offshore wind segment installed 21.1 GW in 2021, its best year ever. Onshore wind installations amounted to 72.5 GW last year, compared to 88.4 GW in 2020.

According to the GWEC – whose members include companies like Vestas, Orsted and Shell – the main drivers of the decline in onshore facilities were China and the United States.

For China, where 30.7 GW was installed in 2021 compared to more than 50 GW in 2020, the GWEC cited the end of the country’s feed-in tariff as the reason for the decline.

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The United States installed 12.7 GW of onshore capacity in 2021, down 4.16 GW from 2020. The GWEC highlighted factors such as “COVID-19 disruptions and string issues of procurement” which “slowed down the execution of the construction of the project from the 3rd quarter of 2021 From.”

Net zero concerns

Along with its data, the GWEC report also issued a warning and called for a significant increase in capacity.

“At the current rate of installation,” he said, “GWEC Market Intelligence predicts that by 2030 we will have less than two-thirds of the wind power capacity required for a 1.5°C trajectory. and net zero, effectively dooming us to miss our goals.”

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

The 1.5 figure refers to the Paris 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, for global warming to be kept “to no more than 1.5°C…emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050”.

Among other things, Monday’s GWEC report called for streamlining permit procedures and “a stronger international regulatory framework to deal with increased competition for critical commodities and minerals.”

Huge obstacles

In a statement on Monday, GWEC CEO Ben Backwell said, “Scaling up growth to the level required to achieve Net Zero and energy security will require a new, more proactive approach to policy-making around the world. “.

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

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he said, “exposed the implications of fossil fuel import dependence for energy security.”

“The past 12 months should serve as the wake-up call we need to move decisively forward to 21st century energy systems based on renewable energy.”

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

Fossil fuels are entrenched in the global energy mix and companies continue to discover and develop oil and gas deposits all over the world.

Indeed, in March, the International Energy Agency reported that 2021 had seen energy-related carbon dioxide emissions reach their highest level in history. The IEA found that global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 6% in 2021 to a record high of 36.3 billion metric tons.

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

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