The real world needs action now

Fatih Birol, executive head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), is not alone in recognising a "growing disconnect" between what is being discussed in climate summits and reports, what policymakers are actually doing about it, and what is happening in real life.

Speaking at the launch of the IEA’s latest renewables report, Birol painted a broadly optimistic picture of clean-energy growth over the next five years.

It included around 350GW of new wind, though with a little more ambition and effort, a further 80GW could be achieved, the report stated.

Whether that will be enough is a different matter. "Governments’ actions and policies are far from reaching our climate targets," he said.

Ben Backwell, CEO of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), also noted the "unprecedented" level of public support for climate-change action not being followed through by policymakers.

Speaking at the opening of the China Wind Power 2019 conference, Backwell said: "Every week we hear talk about new trade barriers and new restrictions on badly needed investments.

"Whether we are in Beijing, Brussels or Washington, we all face a common problem and need to cooperate to replace fossil fuels with renewables as fast as possible and at the lowest cost."

GWEC estimates that restrictive tariffs on key commodities and components could increase wind-turbine supply-chain costs by up to 20% in some cases.

Adding costs to renewable-energy sources, when so much progress has been made in cutting them, makes no sense at all.

All eyes on China

The role China will play if the global wind industry is to meet even the IEA’s conservative forecast by the end of 2024, cannot be overestimated.

The country is currently installing nearly half the world’s wind capacity annually, even if market analysts predict this will drop off from 2021 when it enters a zero-subsidy regime in place of the current feed-in tariffs.

Our exclusive visit to the manufacturing facilities of China’s biggest wind-turbine gearbox supplier, NGC, revealed other aspects of how the country’s wind market is changing.

There is a growing emphasis on reliability and quality control, and a concerted drive towards bigger and higher-rated turbines, for both onshore and offshore applications. Some very ambitious products are now on the NGC test benches and will be coming to market soon.

Our special thanks to Ryan Luo, our technology correspondent Eize de Vries’s guide while he was in China.