Renewables

It’s time to shout out some good news.

The annual report by the Global Wind Energy Council (“the Council”) highlights that 2019 was a record-breaking year for wind energy.  Wind power capacity grew by one fifth as 60.4 GW of wind energy capacity was installed globally. This was a 19% increase from installation in 2018 and the second-best year for wind ever. Total capacity for wind energy globally is now over 651 GW.

Offshore wind is playing an increasingly important role in global wind installations. The sector installed a record 6.1 GW last year. Offshore wind now accounts for 10% of new wind farm installations.

There has been significant growth in the UK, one of the top five markets for new installations. Provisional data published by the government on 26 March 2020 disclosed that wind power generated almost a fifth of the UK’s electricity last year. Meanwhile the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell for the seventh consecutive year.

A marked contrast in UK policy between onshore and offshore resulted however in nearly all of the UK’s progress in wind deployment in 2019 being offshore as opposed to onshore. The recent decision to allow onshore wind projects to compete for incentives alongside offshore wind projects and solar developments may be a significant step towards increasing the UK’s onshore wind deployment. Ofgem’s approval of the 600MW Shetland to mainland Scotland subsea electricity transmission link is another positive.

The Council expected 2020 to be another successful year for wind energy and forecast the global wind energy market to grow by 20%. COVID-19 will challenge the construction of energy projects but it also seems likely that it and the rise of renewable energy should help to reduce overall emissions in 2020. Recent studies have shown that CO2 emissions could be reduced by 5% this year. A reduction in transport and energy use during lockdown will not of itself help in the fight against climate change but it may slow the depletion of our remaining carbon budget. If it takes around two months to form a new habit, could this lockdown help to promote behaviours that complement the low carbon agenda?

To continue the record-breaking figures found in this year’s report, the Council believes that the focus should be on building energy markets that support the long-term sustainability of renewable industries. Emerging technologies such as hybridisation and green hydrogen could also go some way to accelerating growth. Wind however has proved itself to be an invaluable resource in the drive to produce clean and cost-competitive energy and the Council believes that wind power will continue to grow significantly. Now that is good news.

Kathryn Merchant
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