Image: GWEC

The Global Wind Energy Council has released its 16th annual flagship report ahead of the crucial COP26 conference in November 2021.

The Global Wind Report 2021 highlights wind power’s role on the road to net zero and stresses that ambitions alone won’t be enough to meet Paris Agreement goals. In fact, many countries around the world are not doing enough to develop the wind sector and are struggling behind impotent policy frameworks and red tape.

To mark the launch of the report, GWEC hosted a digital discussion to emphasise key findings and recommended actions to speed up the energy transition through wind power.

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According to GWEC CEO, Ben Backwell, the report is different this year due to this being a landmark year for climate action. Even though 93GW of wind power was installed last year and ambitions are rising to increase this number, “ambition isn’t enough, some countries are lagging due to non-economic challenges around execution. The Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) is competitive and there’s plenty of investment appetite, it is a question of having the right level of ambition and action”.

Backwell emphasised that its the permitting and licensing, or poilcy landscape in general where things take too long.

Backwell added: “Wind energy is ready to play a serious role, as one of the best ways to replace carbon emissions in the power system”.

Vice chairman of GWEC and senior VP of Vestas, Morten Dyrholm, stated that this report is a call to action in the lead up to COP26. Policymakers must be on the same page and realise that speed is necessary. “Collaboration on this climate emergency is vital, from governments to communities. We need to radically increase installations if we are to meet Paris Agreement targets.

“Wind is no longer niche, we will be providing the electrons of the future,” added Dyrholm.

Top five takeaways

  1. 2020 was a record year for wind energy, led by China and the US. Record installations of 93GW represent a 53% increase from the previous year.
  2. The Asia Pacific region has been increasingly driving growth of the global wind power industry, which now helps the world to avoid over 1.1 billion tonnes of C02 annually – equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of South America.
  3. The world needs to be installing an average 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 from 2030 onwards to maintain a pathway compliant with meeting net zero by 2050.
  4. This is the make or break decade. GWEC is calling on policymakers to take a true ‘climate emergency’ approach to allow a faster ramp up including, eliminating red tape, carrying out a massive increase in investments in grid, ports and other infrastructure and re-vamping energy markets to ensure that they account for the true social costs of polluting fossil fuels.
  5. The wind energy sector can’t do it alone. All sectors and actors must collaborate and innovate to encourage electrification, the use of cost competitive technology and the inclusion of offshore and hybrid models to ensure more stable generation profiles.

The report further states that hard to abate sectors have higher barriers to electrification however, improvements will be seen through Power-to-X applications, the use of green hydrogen for storage, and more flexible grids for renewables integration.

GWEC world tour

Here’s a brief look at country-specific wind markets around the world.

Image credit: GWEC

China – The main factor that encouraged market growth was policy change. Besides the 2019 renewables roadmap, the feed-in tariff coming to an end this year is encouraging wind projects to be completed sooner rather than later.

Image credit: GWEC

Vietnam – The government is showing ambition in wind through the Power Development Plan, aiming to reach 18GW by 2030. For this to happen, transmission lines must be expanded and the grid must be developed to provide flexibility to accommodate more renewables. Policy and finance flow is needed to support this plan.

Furthermore, LNG continues to be heavily featured as an important transitional technology. The goverment must realise that compared to LNG, offshore wind offers higher capacity, scale, and an improved balance of trade. LNG sees more price fluctuations impacting LCOE and can therefore not offer the same price predictability as wind.

Image credit: GWEC

India – A slow down, worsened by the pandemic and lockdown, has been caused by policy and infrastructure challenges such as land acquisition and grid capacity limitations.

However, net zero targets are providing momentum with government and private sector adopting these targets. Wind, together with solar power, will be crucial in meeting these targets.

Image credit: GWEC

South Africa – The county has had success in growing its wind sector due to an aging, carbon intensive power fleet. With power sources going offline, the country is in a crisis and needs renewables to close the capacity gap. The future power mix must be quick to build, clean, and supported by clear policy, as well as strong and visionary leadership.

With over 24GW of coal to be decommissioned by 2050, wind capacity is set to increase, a plan supported by the country’s Integrated Resource Plan.

Offshore wind has been challenging due to the country’s difficult-to-navigate coastlines, however, feasibility studies are underway and floating foundations will encourage deployment.

Image credit: GWEC

Brazil – Historically, wind energy has been competitive due to an efficient supply chain and finance options provided by the Brazillian Development Bank. The growing free market has also seen more contracts and innovations being introduced since 2018.

Offshore wind will begin to play a larger role, especially as the National Energy Plan emphasises wind and solar. The offshore road map and policy disucssions in the senate are underway, with projects predicted to be live before 2030.

Image credit: GWEC

Mexico – A slow down in renewable energy uptake has been caused by the political energy agenda, which is undermining the development of renewables and limiting private investment. Policies are preventing investment in generation assets due to the lack of public tenders and PPA’s.

Image credit: GWEC

USA – There is continued strong demand from consumers for clean energy. Technology improvements have reduced the costs, driving utilities to add wind to the mix, a phenomenon encouraged by increased corporate demand.

Market growth has been further spurred by the regulatory, federal and financial landscapes.

The role of wind in achieving net zero is critical. Wind projects will be deployed at scale, coupled with supporting energy storage technology such as batteries and green hydrogen.

In terms of offshore wind, there are many projects in the development phase in Europe. The LCOE is coming down to grid parity, governments can now fund and support these projects, and this is, in turn, accelerating market growth. Once floating wind reaches commercial scale, it will follow the same route, complemented by green hydrogen and Power-to-X opportunities.

Clearly, countries around the globe are transitioning towards clean energy and have plans in place to develop wind assets. However, political red tape, lack of policy and firm leadership are hindering development and must be addressed on a global scale as soon as possible. Governments must be willing to collaborate, partner and share knowledge if there is any chance of meeting Paris climate targets.

Download the report.

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