Wind energy turns mainstream with generation expected to double in next 5 years

“Increase in wind generation was equal to almost half of global electricity growth. This surprising but welcome news became apparent from new IEA analysis revealing that, for the second successive year, global CO2 emissions remained stable despite growth in the world economy. This was due to a number of factors (industrial restructuring, improved energy efficiency and the substantial growth of renewables) led by wind.”, says Fatih Birol (Executive Director of the International Energy Agency) in the preface of the Global Wind Report: Annual Market update, the flagship publication released by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), which was launched yesterday in Brussels.

Source of the image, Global Wind Report: Annual Market update 2016. © GWEC.
Source of the image, Global Wind Report: Annual Market update 2016. © GWEC.

GWEC projects that wind power installations will nearly double in the next five years, led by China, but with major contributions from both Europe, on the basis of its 2020 targets, and the US.
Now entering its longest period of policy stability, the US see a much stronger industry emerge, setting the stage for a period of rapid growth in the coming years.

“Wind power is now mainstream, supplying competitive, reliable and clean energy to fuel economic growth, and to cut emissions in established economies, while at the same time creating new jobs, new industries, and enhancing energy security,” said Steve Sawyer (Secretary General GWEC).

Never seen and unexpected high growth in 2015 led by China

“Wind power had yet another record-breaking year. After passing the 50 GW mark for the first time in a single year in 2014, we reached yet another milestone in 2015 as annual installations topped 63 GW, a 22% increase,” underscores Klaus Rave (Chairman of GWEC)

The last record was set in 2014 when over 51.7 GW of new capacity was installed globally. In 2015 total investments in the clean energy sector reached a record $329Bn (€296.6 Bn). 2015 figures were up 4% from 2014’s i0nvestment of $316Bn (€238.1 Bn) and beating the previous record set in 2011 by 3%1 . The new global total for wind power at the end of 2015 was 432.9 GW, representing cumulative market growth of more than 17%.

China, the largest overall market for wind power since 2009, retained as well the top spot in 2015. Installations in Asia again led global markets, with Europe in the second spot, and North America in third place.

Source of the image, Global Wind Report: Annual Market update 2016. © GWEC.
Source of the image, Global Wind Report: Annual Market update 2016. © GWEC.

The astonishing new installations figure of 30,753 MW in China contributed almost to the 50% of the growth experienced in 2015. Last year the global wind power industry installed 63,467 MW, posting an annual market growth at 22%.

In terms of annual installations China maintained its leadership position. This Asian country added 30.8 GW of new capacity in 2015, once again the highest annual number for any country ever. This is almost twice the 2013 figure, when China installed 16 GW of new capacity.

Chinese wind market reaches 145GW capacity but wastes 15% of the power generated

The Chinese wind market almost doubled its capacity from 75 GW in 2012 to reach 145 GW by the end of 2015, reinforcing China’s lead in terms of cumulative installed wind power capacity.

However, urtailment on wind farms in China worsened in 2015, as grid companies kept almost 34 billion kWh from being delivered to the grid. According to the National Energy Administration (NEA), the country wasted 15% of wind power generated in 20155 . On-going curtailment of electricity generation is a challenge for wind power projects. However, the NEA and State Grid are working to solve the transmission bottlenecks and other grid issues, and the situation is expected to improve.

India surpassed Spain ad positions as 2nd driver for growth in Asia

India continues to be the second largest wind market in Asia, and in 2015 passed Spain to attain 4th place in the worl in terms of cumulative installations and 5th in new capacity installed last year.

Source of the image, Global Wind Report: Annual Market update 2016. © GWEC.
Source of the image, Global Wind Report: Annual Market update 2016. © GWEC.

2015 seems to signal the onset of a recovery phase given the government’s desire to address some of the structural bottlenecks in the market. Total grid connected renewable energy installations in the country reached approximately 39,411 MW6
and the Indian government has committed to a target of 175 GW of renewables by 2022, including 100 GW of solar capacity and 60 GW of cumulative wind power capacity.

The government has also showed its support for rapidly growing the power sector, renewables being a core part of this strategy.

New emerging markets

Besides this, new markets are emerging across Africa, Asia and Latin America, which will provide the major growth markets in the next decade. Outside of China, Asia will be led by India, but new markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan and Mongolia are developing quickly.

Source of the image, Global Wind Report: Annual Market update 2016. © GWEC.
Source of the image, Global Wind Report: Annual Market update 2016. © GWEC.

South Africa was the first market in Africa to pass the 1,000 MW last year, and alongside Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia and Kenya, will be leading development in that market. Brazil will continue to lead in Latin America, followed by Chile and Uruguay, and a potentially very large market is just now opening up in Argentina.

Some risks able to shadow the rosy prospect

Birol quotes a number of barriers to delivering the needed deployment for wind energy growth remain, namely record low fossil fuel prices, grid integration issues and high levels
of curtailment in some countries and regions. Lack of public acceptance can hinder as well the rise of wind energy. “So”, he points, despite progress in reducing wind generation costs, there is still an essential need for appropriate market and regulatory frameworks.

Image over the headline.- Sunset on more than 200 Windturbines at Guazhou (瓜州县) wind farm, Gansu province, China. Image by Popolon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Related external links:

GWEC’s Global Wind Report: Annual Market update

Related Eastwindlinks:

Wind energy.- Argentina, promising, among 22% worldwide rise

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