Wind could supply up to 12% of global electricity by 2020, study says

Source: Special to E&E • Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012

Wind power could supply up to 12 percent of global electricity by 2020 and more than 20 percent by 2030, a new study by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Greenpeace shows.

Wind energy installations totaled 240 gigawatts globally by the end of 2011, and the industry is set to grow by at least another 40 GW this year, the study says. By 2020, under the scenario put forth by the International Energy Agency, total capacity would reach 587 GW, supplying about 6 percent of global electricity.

But under what GWEC called its moderate scenario, in which governments implement “modest” emissions reductions agreed to in 2010 at international climate talks held in Cancun, Mexico, the industry could reach 759 GW, supplying 7.7 to 8.3 percent of global electricity.

With more policy support, wind power could reach more than 1,100 GW by 2020 under GWEC’s advanced scenario, in which the world commits to keeping global warming on average below 2 degrees Celsius. Under such conditions, wind would supply between 11.7 and 12.6 percent of global electricity and save nearly 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the study says.

“For wind to reach its full potential, governments need to act quickly to address the climate crisis while there is still time,” said Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of GWEC.

The study looked at scenarios out to 2020, 2030 and 2050, measuring the potential for wind power against two different projections for the development of electricity demand — one based on the IEA’s forecast and another on a more energy-efficient future envisioned by consultants at Ecofys and researchers at Utrecht University.

“The most important ingredient for the long-term success of the wind industry is stable, long-term policy, sending a clear signal to investors about the government’s vision for the scope and potential for the technology,” said Sven Teske, an energy expert at Greenpeace.

The study calls for “an end to partisan bickering over energy policy in the U.S., which creates destructive boom-bust cycles in that critical market,” as well as a solution to grid access and quality problems in China.

Other policies the authors of the study recommended were removing some free carbon permits from the European Union’s Emissions Trading System and cutting subsidies in the conventional energy sector.