Wind energy needs dramatic increase to hit net-zero goals, new report says

Source: By Anmar Frangoul, CNBC • Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2022

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

Published Monday, the GWEC’s Global Wind Report 2022 said 93.6 gigawatts of capacity was installed last year, a little lower than the 95.3 GW installed in 2020. Cumulative capacity grew to 837 GW. Capacity refers to the maximum amount of electricity installations can produce, not what they’re necessarily generating.

Breaking things down, the offshore wind segment installed 21.1 GW in 2021, its best ever year. Installations in onshore wind came in at 72.5 GW last year, against 88.4 GW in 2020.

According to the GWEC — whose members include firms like Vestas, Orsted and Shell — the main drivers of the decline in onshore installations were China and the U.S.

For China, where 30.7 GW was installed in 2021 compared to over 50 GW in 2020, the GWEC cited the ending of the country’s feed-in-tariff as the reason behind the drop.

The U.S. installed 12.7 GW of onshore capacity in 2021, a 4.16 GW decline compared to 2020. The GWEC pointed to factors including “disruptions due to COVID-19 and supply chain issues” which “slowed down project construction execution from the 3rd quarter of 2021 onwards.”

Net-zero concerns

Alongside its data, the GWEC’s report also issued a warning and called for a significant ramp up in capacity.

“At current rates of installation,” it said, “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 pathway, effectively condemning us to miss our climate goals.”

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

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

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