If one sustainable fuel form has the wind at its back, it’s, well, wind energy. According to the Global Wind Energy Council , it could supply 20% of global electricity by 2030.
“Now that the Paris Agreement is coming into force, countries need to get serious about what they committed to last December,” says Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the group. “Meeting the Paris targets means a completely decarbonised electricity supply well before 2050, and wind power will play the major role in getting us there.”
By 2030 wind power could reach 2,110 gigawatts, it says. That would spawn 2.4 million new jobs, attracting billions in new investment. Meantime, it adds that carbon dioxide emissions would fall by more than 3.3 billion tons per year.
Given the emphasis on carbon reductions, along with newer and cheaper technologies, new markets around the globe are forming: Africa, Asia and Latin America. But the report says that China will become the biggest such market while the United States will come in second. Germany, India Spain, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Brazil all follow, in that order.
“Wind power is the most competitive option for adding new capacity to the grid in a growing number of markets,” continued Sawyer, “but if the Paris agreement targets are to be reached, that means closing fossil fuel fired power plants and replacing them with wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass. That will be the hard part, and governments will have to get serious about it if they are to live up to the commitments to which they have now bound themselves.”
Global wind energy installations totaled 433 GW as of the end of 2015, and the industry is set to grow by another 60 GW in 2016, according to its Global Wind Energy Outlook. Today, wind energy makes up 8% of the global electric generation market.
At the same time, the report gives credit to the Unites States for keeping stable its production tax credit, which will qualify for a 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour production tax credit. It will gradually diminish through 2019. Wind and solar projects could opt instead to take a 30 percent investment tax credit that reduces their federal taxes dollar-for-dollar by what they put into the project. The main difference is that the solar production tax credit will phase out at the end of 2022.
“There is a consensus in the wind industry that another extension after this one phases out is unlikely,” says Clint Johnson, a wind analyst and director of project development for DNV GL, in a phone interview. Wind energy — the cost of construction and wind turbines — has fallen by 50 percent over five years, he adds.
A Hillary Clinton presidency, meantime, looks increasingly likely. What that means is that the policies to facilitate the development of more green energy will continue — in some fashion. During the third presidential debate, the Democratic nominee was forced to answer a question about previous comments she had made regarding “open borders” — to which she responded it referred to sending green electrons across national boundaries.
Such thinking also corresponds with an agreement recently signed by the presidents of Canada, Mexico and the United States — the ‘Three Amigos’ — that would raise the green energy stakes and allow for more border trades.
“Onshore wind power has become the least-cost option when adding new capacity to the grid in an increasing number of markets, and prices continue to fall,” says the wind outlook. “Given the urgency to cut CO2 emissions, clean our air and decrease reliance on imported fossil fuels, wind power’s pivotal role in the world’s future energy supply is assured.”