New blueprint sets ten per cent goal

Wind power can provide 10% of the world's electricity needs by 2020, create 1.7 million jobs and reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10 billion tonnes. This is the finding of a new international report commissioned by Greenpeace, the European Wind Energy Association (EWE) and the Forum for Energy and Development.

The report, "Wind Force 10: A Blueprint to achieve 10% of the World's Electricity from Wind Power by 2020," shows that by the end of 2020, 1.2 million MW of wind power capacity could be installed worldwide and produce more than the total electricity consumption in Europe today. This would save more than 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 annually. The report was released at the Financial Times World Renewable Conference in Brussels (page 37), and is the result of a study by Danish consultants, BTM Consult, to assess the feasibility of the 10% figure.

One of the reasons Greenpeace collaborated with the wind business was to broaden the debate in terms of climate, wind energy and the world, says Greenpeace's Corin Millais. "This report is essentially about the triple benefits of wind power for the world, not just environment, but industry and development so that we have three pillars on which to build."

The 1.2 million MW of wind represents one fifth of the world's electricity demand in 1998. However, according to predictions by the International Energy Agency under a "business as usual" scenario, electricity consumption is expected to double by 2020.

Thirty percent growth

On current expectations, wind power will grow too, at an annual rate of 20% between 1998 and 2003. But to meet the 10% target, 30% annual growth is needed from 2004 to 2010, with growth rates falling to 20% from 2010 onwards. An important factor is the likely start to offshore wind in Europe from 2001. By 2040, wind could be supplying more than 20% of the world's electricity. The fastest rate of development is expected in Europe -- where one fifth of this total capacity would be installed -- as well as North America and China.

The feasibility study shows that total investment to reach the 1.2 billion MW of wind could be some $721 billion, reaching a peak of $78 billion yearly in 2020. Costs of wind generated electricity are predicted to fall to $0.04 /kWh by 2005 and $0.032/kWh by 2020.

The report makes some key recommendations. It calls on governments around the world to establish firm targets for wind power in every country where it has potential. It also calls for the removal of inherent electricity sector barriers: to ease permitting and access to grids; to establish fair and transparent pricing for electricity with appropriate reward for the benefits of distributed generation; and to set fair transmission and access tariffs. The report demands a halt to subsidies to fossil fuels. Finally, it calls for legally enforced policy mechanisms to secure and accelerate the new market for wind energy.

Binding targets

"The signing of the Kyoto Protocol signalled to the energy industry the beginning of the phase out of fossil fuels," says Millais. "Governments must now act to establish the regulatory framework and set legally binding targets for renewables. There is no excuse for inaction because wind power is an affordable, feasible, mainstream global energy force that is able to substitute for conventional fuels."

The report points out that last year wind was the fastest growing energy source in the world with an average 40.3% growth between 1994-98. But today, wind's contribution to world electricity remains a mere 0.15%.

In some countries, wind energy growth rates exceed the expansion of the mobile phone market, comments EWEA president Klaus Rave. "With the political will to create the right regulatory framework the wind industry can become a mainstream power source creating investment, jobs and providing a cost effective solution to the climate change problem."

The report is a direct challenge to government and industry, adds Millais. "This is not going to come about if we sit back and wait for it. It has to be fought for and battled for."