Is GWEC's 2,110GW forecast too optimistic?

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Ilaria Valtimora
October 21, 2016
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Is GWEC's 2,110GW forecast too optimistic?

The Global Wind Energy Council this week published its sixth annual ‘Global Wind Energy Outlook’ report. This draws an ambitious and optimistic picture of the future of the global wind energy industry out to 2020, 2030 and up to 2050.

The report concludes that, in the medium- to long-term, wind is on track to meet even the most optimistic predictions. The report’s ‘advanced scenario’ track – in other words, the most bullish one – indicates that the wind industry could reach 2,110 GW installed capacity by 2030 and supply 20% of the world`s electricity.

So far so good. If the wind sector can achieve this level of growth, a fivefold increase in total capacity from the 433GW at the end of 2015, it would bolster developers, investors and manufacturers.

It would also more than double the number of people working in the wind sector: the report estimates that the number of people employed in the industry could rise to 2.4million by 2030. That does raise the potential of skills shortages in some parts of the sector but, as it is a by-product of success, it would be a nice problem to have.

But we question whether that 20% figure will be met by 2030.

A deeper look at the assumptions underlying the ‘advanced scenario’ raises some serious questions.

The scenario assumes that government and institutions would invest an estimated €200bn in new wind capacity each year to meet the ambitious targets set in the climate change deal agreed at United Nations talks in Paris last year.

And it also assumes that there would be no new-build nuclear or a large take up of carbon capture and storage technologies.

Those are very bold assumptions and, with that in mind, the outlook looks just too good to be true. The steady growth and development of the renewable energy sector is still extremely reliant upon government policies, where there is always doubt.

It is, of course, hard to predict the future of the wind energy, but the industry could yet be undermined by economic and political uncertainty around the world.

China, the largest overall market for wind power since 2009, has suffered a worrying economic slowdown. The International Monetary Fund expects China`s GDP to slow towards 5.8% by 2021, well below the government`s target of 7%.

The US, the single largest market in terms of installed capacity after China, has to deal with the outcome of the presidential election – and the toxic campaigning that has surrounded it. Doubts over the Clean Power Plan could undermine investors’ future decisions, despite the five-year extension of the wind production tax credit.

And, in Europe, the political situation in some of the largest wind markets is also unsteady. Germany, which accounted for 47% of all new wind installations in the European Union in 2015, will face the political uncertainty related to its general election next year.

Meanwhile, the UK, which is the globally largest offshore wind market today, could easily see negative impacts on investments and growth following Brexit talks.

Governments and institutions in all of these countries will be busy in the following years. All face levels of upheaval. And, against that backdrop, an unambiguous commitment to renewable industry`s recommendations is unlikely to be a high priority.

The wind industry is still on GWEC’s advanced track for now. And the industry has exceeded optimistic predictions before – so it could yet surprise us.

The Global Wind Energy Council this week published its sixth annual ‘Global Wind Energy Outlook’ report. This draws an ambitious and optimistic picture of the future of the global wind energy industry out to 2020, 2030 and up to 2050.

The report concludes that, in the medium- to long-term, wind is on track to meet even the most optimistic predictions. The report’s ‘advanced scenario’ track – in other words, the most bullish one – indicates that the wind industry could reach 2,110 GW installed capacity by 2030 and supply 20% of the world`s electricity.

So far so good. If the wind sector can achieve this level of growth, a fivefold increase in total capacity from the 433GW at the end of 2015, it would bolster developers, investors and manufacturers.

It would also more than double the number of people working in the wind sector: the report estimates that the number of people employed in the industry could rise to 2.4million by 2030. That does raise the potential of skills shortages in some parts of the sector but, as it is a by-product of success, it would be a nice problem to have.

But we question whether that 20% figure will be met by 2030.

A deeper look at the assumptions underlying the ‘advanced scenario’ raises some serious questions.

The scenario assumes that government and institutions would invest an estimated €200bn in new wind capacity each year to meet the ambitious targets set in the climate change deal agreed at United Nations talks in Paris last year.

And it also assumes that there would be no new-build nuclear or a large take up of carbon capture and storage technologies.

Those are very bold assumptions and, with that in mind, the outlook looks just too good to be true. The steady growth and development of the renewable energy sector is still extremely reliant upon government policies, where there is always doubt.

It is, of course, hard to predict the future of the wind energy, but the industry could yet be undermined by economic and political uncertainty around the world.

China, the largest overall market for wind power since 2009, has suffered a worrying economic slowdown. The International Monetary Fund expects China`s GDP to slow towards 5.8% by 2021, well below the government`s target of 7%.

The US, the single largest market in terms of installed capacity after China, has to deal with the outcome of the presidential election – and the toxic campaigning that has surrounded it. Doubts over the Clean Power Plan could undermine investors’ future decisions, despite the five-year extension of the wind production tax credit.

And, in Europe, the political situation in some of the largest wind markets is also unsteady. Germany, which accounted for 47% of all new wind installations in the European Union in 2015, will face the political uncertainty related to its general election next year.

Meanwhile, the UK, which is the globally largest offshore wind market today, could easily see negative impacts on investments and growth following Brexit talks.

Governments and institutions in all of these countries will be busy in the following years. All face levels of upheaval. And, against that backdrop, an unambiguous commitment to renewable industry`s recommendations is unlikely to be a high priority.

The wind industry is still on GWEC’s advanced track for now. And the industry has exceeded optimistic predictions before – so it could yet surprise us.

The Global Wind Energy Council this week published its sixth annual ‘Global Wind Energy Outlook’ report. This draws an ambitious and optimistic picture of the future of the global wind energy industry out to 2020, 2030 and up to 2050.

The report concludes that, in the medium- to long-term, wind is on track to meet even the most optimistic predictions. The report’s ‘advanced scenario’ track – in other words, the most bullish one – indicates that the wind industry could reach 2,110 GW installed capacity by 2030 and supply 20% of the world`s electricity.

So far so good. If the wind sector can achieve this level of growth, a fivefold increase in total capacity from the 433GW at the end of 2015, it would bolster developers, investors and manufacturers.

It would also more than double the number of people working in the wind sector: the report estimates that the number of people employed in the industry could rise to 2.4million by 2030. That does raise the potential of skills shortages in some parts of the sector but, as it is a by-product of success, it would be a nice problem to have.

But we question whether that 20% figure will be met by 2030.

A deeper look at the assumptions underlying the ‘advanced scenario’ raises some serious questions.

The scenario assumes that government and institutions would invest an estimated €200bn in new wind capacity each year to meet the ambitious targets set in the climate change deal agreed at United Nations talks in Paris last year.

And it also assumes that there would be no new-build nuclear or a large take up of carbon capture and storage technologies.

Those are very bold assumptions and, with that in mind, the outlook looks just too good to be true. The steady growth and development of the renewable energy sector is still extremely reliant upon government policies, where there is always doubt.

It is, of course, hard to predict the future of the wind energy, but the industry could yet be undermined by economic and political uncertainty around the world.

China, the largest overall market for wind power since 2009, has suffered a worrying economic slowdown. The International Monetary Fund expects China`s GDP to slow towards 5.8% by 2021, well below the government`s target of 7%.

The US, the single largest market in terms of installed capacity after China, has to deal with the outcome of the presidential election – and the toxic campaigning that has surrounded it. Doubts over the Clean Power Plan could undermine investors’ future decisions, despite the five-year extension of the wind production tax credit.

And, in Europe, the political situation in some of the largest wind markets is also unsteady. Germany, which accounted for 47% of all new wind installations in the European Union in 2015, will face the political uncertainty related to its general election next year.

Meanwhile, the UK, which is the globally largest offshore wind market today, could easily see negative impacts on investments and growth following Brexit talks.

Governments and institutions in all of these countries will be busy in the following years. All face levels of upheaval. And, against that backdrop, an unambiguous commitment to renewable industry`s recommendations is unlikely to be a high priority.

The wind industry is still on GWEC’s advanced track for now. And the industry has exceeded optimistic predictions before – so it could yet surprise us.

The Global Wind Energy Council this week published its sixth annual ‘Global Wind Energy Outlook’ report. This draws an ambitious and optimistic picture of the future of the global wind energy industry out to 2020, 2030 and up to 2050.

The report concludes that, in the medium- to long-term, wind is on track to meet even the most optimistic predictions. The report’s ‘advanced scenario’ track – in other words, the most bullish one – indicates that the wind industry could reach 2,110 GW installed capacity by 2030 and supply 20% of the world`s electricity.

So far so good. If the wind sector can achieve this level of growth, a fivefold increase in total capacity from the 433GW at the end of 2015, it would bolster developers, investors and manufacturers.

It would also more than double the number of people working in the wind sector: the report estimates that the number of people employed in the industry could rise to 2.4million by 2030. That does raise the potential of skills shortages in some parts of the sector but, as it is a by-product of success, it would be a nice problem to have.

But we question whether that 20% figure will be met by 2030.

A deeper look at the assumptions underlying the ‘advanced scenario’ raises some serious questions.

The scenario assumes that government and institutions would invest an estimated €200bn in new wind capacity each year to meet the ambitious targets set in the climate change deal agreed at United Nations talks in Paris last year.

And it also assumes that there would be no new-build nuclear or a large take up of carbon capture and storage technologies.

Those are very bold assumptions and, with that in mind, the outlook looks just too good to be true. The steady growth and development of the renewable energy sector is still extremely reliant upon government policies, where there is always doubt.

It is, of course, hard to predict the future of the wind energy, but the industry could yet be undermined by economic and political uncertainty around the world.

China, the largest overall market for wind power since 2009, has suffered a worrying economic slowdown. The International Monetary Fund expects China`s GDP to slow towards 5.8% by 2021, well below the government`s target of 7%.

The US, the single largest market in terms of installed capacity after China, has to deal with the outcome of the presidential election – and the toxic campaigning that has surrounded it. Doubts over the Clean Power Plan could undermine investors’ future decisions, despite the five-year extension of the wind production tax credit.

And, in Europe, the political situation in some of the largest wind markets is also unsteady. Germany, which accounted for 47% of all new wind installations in the European Union in 2015, will face the political uncertainty related to its general election next year.

Meanwhile, the UK, which is the globally largest offshore wind market today, could easily see negative impacts on investments and growth following Brexit talks.

Governments and institutions in all of these countries will be busy in the following years. All face levels of upheaval. And, against that backdrop, an unambiguous commitment to renewable industry`s recommendations is unlikely to be a high priority.

The wind industry is still on GWEC’s advanced track for now. And the industry has exceeded optimistic predictions before – so it could yet surprise us.

The Global Wind Energy Council this week published its sixth annual ‘Global Wind Energy Outlook’ report. This draws an ambitious and optimistic picture of the future of the global wind energy industry out to 2020, 2030 and up to 2050.

The report concludes that, in the medium- to long-term, wind is on track to meet even the most optimistic predictions. The report’s ‘advanced scenario’ track – in other words, the most bullish one – indicates that the wind industry could reach 2,110 GW installed capacity by 2030 and supply 20% of the world`s electricity.

So far so good. If the wind sector can achieve this level of growth, a fivefold increase in total capacity from the 433GW at the end of 2015, it would bolster developers, investors and manufacturers.

It would also more than double the number of people working in the wind sector: the report estimates that the number of people employed in the industry could rise to 2.4million by 2030. That does raise the potential of skills shortages in some parts of the sector but, as it is a by-product of success, it would be a nice problem to have.

But we question whether that 20% figure will be met by 2030.

A deeper look at the assumptions underlying the ‘advanced scenario’ raises some serious questions.

The scenario assumes that government and institutions would invest an estimated €200bn in new wind capacity each year to meet the ambitious targets set in the climate change deal agreed at United Nations talks in Paris last year.

And it also assumes that there would be no new-build nuclear or a large take up of carbon capture and storage technologies.

Those are very bold assumptions and, with that in mind, the outlook looks just too good to be true. The steady growth and development of the renewable energy sector is still extremely reliant upon government policies, where there is always doubt.

It is, of course, hard to predict the future of the wind energy, but the industry could yet be undermined by economic and political uncertainty around the world.

China, the largest overall market for wind power since 2009, has suffered a worrying economic slowdown. The International Monetary Fund expects China`s GDP to slow towards 5.8% by 2021, well below the government`s target of 7%.

The US, the single largest market in terms of installed capacity after China, has to deal with the outcome of the presidential election – and the toxic campaigning that has surrounded it. Doubts over the Clean Power Plan could undermine investors’ future decisions, despite the five-year extension of the wind production tax credit.

And, in Europe, the political situation in some of the largest wind markets is also unsteady. Germany, which accounted for 47% of all new wind installations in the European Union in 2015, will face the political uncertainty related to its general election next year.

Meanwhile, the UK, which is the globally largest offshore wind market today, could easily see negative impacts on investments and growth following Brexit talks.

Governments and institutions in all of these countries will be busy in the following years. All face levels of upheaval. And, against that backdrop, an unambiguous commitment to renewable industry`s recommendations is unlikely to be a high priority.

The wind industry is still on GWEC’s advanced track for now. And the industry has exceeded optimistic predictions before – so it could yet surprise us.

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Not a member yet?

Become a member of the 6,500-strong A Word About Wind community today, and gain access to our premium content, exclusive lead generation and investment opportunities.