Asia could increase its share of installed onshore wind power capacity from 230 gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to more than 2,600 GW in 2050, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). By then, the region would become a world leader in wind energy, accounting for more than 50% of all onshore wind capacity and more than 60% installed worldwide.
According to the report “The Future of Wind” released in China Wind Power in Beijing, global wind energy could increase tenfold to more than 6,000 GW by 2050. By mid-century, wind could meet a third of the world’s energy needs and, combined with electrification, be responsible for a quarter of the energy-related carbon emission reductions needed to meet the Paris climate goals. To achieve this goal, onshore and offshore wind capacity will have to increase four and tenfold, respectively, each year compared to current growth.
“With renewable energies, it is possible to achieve a secure future for the climate,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Low-cost renewable energy technologies such as wind power are currently available, which represents the most effective and immediate solution for reducing carbon emissions. Our roadmap for a global energy transformation by 2050 shows that it is technically and economically feasible to secure a sustainable and secure energy future for the climate.
Unlocking the global wind energy potential will be particularly important. In fact, wind energy could be the largest source of energy generation by mid-century. “This would not only enable us to meet climate targets, but would also boost economic growth and create jobs, thus accelerating sustainable development,” adds La Camera.
The global wind industry could become a real engine of employment, employing more than 3.7 million people by 2030 and more than 6 million people by 2050, according to IRENA’s new report. These figures are, respectively, almost three times higher and five times higher than the little more than one million jobs in 2018. Sound industrial and labour policies that build on and strengthen national supply chains can enable income and employment growth by leveraging existing economic activities in support of wind energy industrial development.
But to accelerate the growth of global wind energy in the coming decades, scaling up investments will be key. On average, global annual investment in onshore wind should increase from $67 billion to $211 billion by 2050. For offshore wind, global average annual investments would have to increase from $19 billion to $100 billion by 2050.
Highlights of the report:
Asia would account for more than 50% of the world’s onshore wind power facilities by 2050, followed by North America (23%) and Europe (10%). In total, Asia would cover more than 60% of global installations, followed by Europe (22%) and North America (16%).
Within Asia, China would lead with 2,525 GW of onshore and offshore wind capacity by 2050, followed by India (443 GW), Republic of Korea (78 GW) and South-East Asia (16 GW).
Globally, the levelled cost of electricity (LCOE) for onshore wind energy will continue to fall to 2-3 US cents/kWh in 2050 compared to 6 US cents/kWh in 2018. The costs of offshore wind energy will decrease significantly to 3-7 US cents/kWh by 2050 compared to 13 US cents/kWh in 2018.
The size of the wind turbine for onshore installations will increase, from an average of 2.6 megawatts (MW) in 2018 to 4-5 MW for turbines commissioned in 2025. Offshore applications are likely to increase to 15-20 MW in a decade or two. Floating wind farms could cover about 5-15% of the world’s installed offshore wind capacity (nearly 1,000 GW) by 2050.