Written By: Emma Websdale
The world’s electricity generation from wind power could jump from today’s 2.6% to 18% by 2050 but will require US$150 billion a year says the International Energy Agency (IEA).
According to the IEA’s Wind Power Technology Roadmap, in order for today’s 2.6% global wind power generation to rise to 18% by 2050, the industry would need US$150 billion a year. Current investment in the industry hovers around the $80 million mark, with wind power receiving only 2% of the world’s public energy research and development funding.
However, since 2008, wind power generation has more than doubled, currently approaching 300 gigawatts (GW). China has played the largest contribution to this growth with 75GW, followed by the U.S with 60GW and Germany with 31 GW.
Moreover, some European countries including Demark, Portugal and Spain are producing 18-30% of their total electricity generation from wind power.
According to the IEA, boosts in large-scale deployment of offshore wind farms, modernization of old wind turbines and turbine installation into cold climates have accelerated this increase. Globally, wind power now provides 2.5% of total electricity generation.
IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven has cautioned that in order for this figure to reach 18% of total energy production by 2050, improved technology and further cost reductions are essential.
“There is a continuing need for improved technology”, says Hoeven. “Increasing levels of low-cost wind still require predictable, supportive regulatory environments, and appropriate market designs. The challenges of integrating higher levels of variable wind power into the grid must be tackled.”
Hoeven added, “For offshore wind—still at the early stages of the deployment journey—much remains to be done to develop appropriate large-scale systems and to reduce costs.”
If cost reduction and technological advancement barriers in the wind industry are overcome, the IEA says that reaching 18% of the world’s energy production by wind would save 4.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year by 2050 –an amount equivalent to the European Union’s current annual emissions.