Potential grows and grows

Wind power received a welcome dose of positive press and media attention last month following the release of a new report by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Greenpeace outlining how wind power could meet 34% of world electricity demand by 2050 and 16.5% by 2020. The report was released at this year's GWEC conference, held in Adelaide, Australia. From the International Herald Tribune to India's Infoline News Service to regional newspapers across Australia, the benefits of wind power in fighting climate change and meeting rising energy demand without raising prices was hitting headlines.

The report, Global Wind Energy Outlook 2006, shows that wind energy can make a major contribution towards meeting global electricity demand in the next 30 years and that its share of supply can be substantially increased if serious energy efficiency measures are implemented. By 2020, it says, the cost of wind generated electricity is set to fall to EUR 0.03-EUR 0.038/kWh at a good site and EUR 0.04-0.06/kWh at a site with low average wind speeds.

Under the report's reference wind power scenario, based on projections from the International Energy Agency, wind energy would supply just 5% of the world's electricity by 2030 and 6.6% by 2050.

But if all existing renewables targets are successful, this jumps to 15.6% in 2030 and 17.7% by 2050. Under an advanced scenario, whereby all policy options in favour of renewables are adopted, wind power is able to deliver 29.1% of world electricity in 2030 and up to 34.2% by 2050.

In all cases, an increasing proportion of new wind power capacity is expected in growing markets such as South America, China, the Pacific and South Asia. Moreover, the number of jobs created by wind power development will range from 480,000 in 2030 under the reference scenario to 2.1 million under the advanced, while carbon dioxide savings range from 535 million tonnes a year to 3100 million tonnes a year, respectively.

"We urge governments to support wind power development via electricity market reforms and by cutting down subsidies for fossil and nuclear fuels," says Sven Teske of Greenpeace International. "The required CO2 reduction of one-third by 2020 and half by 2050 can only be achieved if wind power plays a major role in the power sector. Getting this right will be critical if governments are going to be able to meet their medium and longer term climate targets."

With more than 59,000 MW of wind capacity installed worldwide by the end of 2005 from just 4800 MW in 1995, 150,000 people employed in the industry, and an annual turnover for 2006 of more than EUR 13 billion expected, the global market for wind power is expanding fast, notes GWEC. "This report demonstrates that wind technology is not a dream for the future. It is real, it is mature and it can be deployed on a large scale," says GWEC's Arthouros Zervos. "The political choices of the coming years will determine the world's environmental and economic situation for many decades to come."

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