By adding more than 20GW a year between 2030 and 2050, the wind power industry could help renewables account for 66% of Europe’s final energy demand and significantly contribute to a 90% reduction of CO2 emissions.
This emissions reduction would also be aided by renewables-based electrification of Europe’s industrial processes, buildings and transport, WindEurope stated.
However, little has been done to decarbonise these sectors, the trade body claimed.
With ambitious policies compatible with limiting global warming to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, Europe’s electricity share in energy use could reach 62% in 2050, it added.
In its ‘Breaking new ground’ report, released at the WindEnergy Hamburg conference, the trade body suggested such a shift would be both realistic and affordable.
It claimed that wind power’s "cost-competitiveness and scalability" makes it "uniquely placed to make a central contribution" to reducing emissions.
WindEurope predicted that by 2030, average investments costs for onshore wind could fall by 30% to €1.1 million, while offshore costs could decrease by 23% to €2.2 million.
This cost forecast is based on a learning rate of 16% for every doubling of capacity, WindEurope stated.
However, to achieve a 62% share for electricity in energy generation, Europe will need longer and stronger electricity grids, and will need to build them at a faster rate than it has in the past ten years, the association warned.
In particular, it needs to drive electrification in industrial processes, transport and buildings — three areas WindEurope claimed the continent has failed to decarbonise.
Europe will also need to increase the flexibility of its power system.
Storage, power-to-gas and demand response will help to smooth renewables’ variable production, while digitalisation and smart grids will enable utilities to deliver power to consumers when and where it’s needed, WindEurope stated.
These requirements can be aided by renewable energy-friendly policies ranging from markets designed to incentivise demand-side flexibility to prioritising grid investment and research and development funding, it suggested.
WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson added the EU needs to agree a zero net carbon target for 2050, support development of electrolysers and invest in grid infrastructure and electric vehicle charging points.
He said meeting the requirements of the Paris climate change agreement is "both realistic and affordable" and wind power is "more than ready to step up to the challenge.".
"Onshore wind is already the cheapest form of new power generation in many parts of Europe, and offshore wind is not far behind," Dickson said.
"Doing this is not just good for the planet. It’s good for jobs and growth in Europe."