A strategy for a wind powered future

Global installed wind power capacity could soar ten-fold to over 1000 GW by 2020, up from about 106 GW in the middle of this year, says a joint report by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Greenpeace. Global Wind Energy Outlook 2008 lays out three scenarios for future growth of the industry. Under the most optimistic advanced scenario, the report says installed capacity will reach 186 GW by 2010 and will grow to 1080 GW by 2020, generating 2600 TWh of electricity a year. GWEC's Steve Sawyer points out that the wind industry has exceeded the required capacity growth to reach those targets for the past two years and will also do so for 2008.

The advanced scenario assumes all available policy options "along the lines of the [wind] industry's recommendations," are adopted. At this level, wind power would meet up to 12.6% of global electricity demand at the time. By 2030, wind could provide the world with 19.7-24% of its electricity under the same scenario, with almost 2400 GW installed, generating 5700 TWh of electricity a year. By 2050, wind's contribution could rise to 21.2-29.5%, when the report expects 3500 GW to be installed generating more than 9000 TWh a year. Annual capacity additions would stabilise at around 165 GW by 2030 with investment in the sector hitting EUR 168.14 billion a year through to 2050, it adds.

North America tops the list in the advanced scenario, with 243 GW installed by 2020, or 23% of the global market, and 520 GW (22%) by 2030. Europe, with 213 GW cumulative capacity forecast by 2020, takes second place with 19% of the market. China is close behind with 201 GW and 18% of the market. By 2030, China jumps ahead to secure 19% of the market with 451 GW installed, leaving Europe in third place with 353 GW (15%). India, meanwhile, will remain in fourth position for both years, although its global share falls from 13% in 2020 to 10% in 2030.

The report's more "moderate" scenario foresees 172 GW global capacity installed in 2010, 709 GW in 2020 and 1420 GW in 2030. In a still more conservative "reference" scenario, derived from the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2007 report, global capacity reaches just 139 GW in 2010, 352 GW in 2020 and almost 500 GW by 2030.

Growth rates and prices

The forecast installations under the advanced scenario for 2020 are 1% up on those GWEC and Greenpeace published in a 2006 report. Required annual growth rates to reach the 2020 target are 27% in 2008, falling to 22% by 2010, 12% by 2020 and 5% by 2030. After that, growth stabilises at 1% a year, the report says.

"While growth rates eventually decline to single figures across the range of scenarios, the level of wind power capacity envisaged in 40 years' time means that even small percentage growth rates will by then translate into large figures in terms of annually installed megawatts," states the report.

In all scenarios, installation costs for wind peak next year at EUR 1450/kW from today's EUR 1350/kW. From their peak they fall to EUR 1301/kW by 2030 under the reference scenario and to EUR 1026/kW in the advanced scenario.