BELGIUM, June 21, 2017 - The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) celebrated the 10th annual Global Wind Day last week by noting that over 500 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy has been installed worldwide. In 2016 alone $112.5 billion was invested in wind power globally, and the industry now employs 1.2 million people, making it one of the fastest growing industrial segments in the world. Wind power has become a major driver for a sustainable energy future, the council said in a release.
Wind power is the least-cost option for new power capacity in a rapidly increasing number of markets. In 2016, unsubsidized new renewable power was cheaper than fossil fuels in over 30 countries, according to GWEC, which estimates by 2025 that will be the case worldwide.
“We are on the road to a sustainable energy future,” said GWEC Secretary General Steve Sawyer. “Wind and other renewables are already winning on the economics alone, but we need it to happen faster if we are to have a reasonable chance of meeting the Paris climate targets.”
One of the most important remaining barriers for the adoption of wind, particularly in Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries, is generation overcapacity and lack of demand for new power, GWEC said. Old fossil fuel plants, long paid off, are kept running as long as the cost of the air and water pollution and CO2 emissions are free. This is in addition to approximately $500 billion that governments already pay out for direct subsidies to fossil fuel production and consumption annually.
Shutting down these old plants, as well as encouraging the rapid transition to electric vehicles, would help drive the demand necessary to keep the renewable energy industry thriving in established markets, with massive environmental, health, and economic benefits, GWEC said.
“Reaching 500GW globally is a landmark. Wind is now a core mainstream part of electricity systems in advanced economies,” said Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope. “To deliver the economic benefits that will come from the further expansion and the next 500GW, we need to tackle the overcapacity of polluting and inefficient power plants.”