Wind power production is on track to supply over a third of global electricity demand by 2040, nine times more than at present, while putting the industry in position to offset 5.6 billion tonnes of CO2, equal to the annual emissions of the world’s 80 most-polluting cities, by mid-century, according to a new report.
Commissioned from KPMG by renewables OEM Siemens Gamesa, The socioeconomic impacts of wind energy in the context of the energy transition highlights the wider benefits of the sector to the general health of the world’s populations, including saving up to four million lives a year by reducing air pollution and cutting global healthcare costs by up to $3.2trn a year.
The report, which worked with data drawn from International Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Agency and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections, also notes that with 40% of the world's population is affected by water scarcity, wind will by 2030 help save a volume of 1.57 billion m³ a year, currently used in fossil fuel power production.
“The energy transition in essential to achieve the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Universal and affordable access to electricity will empower millions of people around the world and their communities to enjoy a better life. But avoid the worst impacts of climate change, energy will have to be carbon-free,” said Siemens Gamesa CEO Markus Tacke.
“In this context, renewable energy has a major role to play in putting the world on a sustainable path as it will cut emissions, improve air quality, save water, create good-paying jobs and save lives.
“Wind power is ideally positioned to lead that transition, as it is at the cutting edge of technological innovation, driving costs down and market penetration up. In recent years wind energy has become cost competitive with fossil fuels. That’s due to new manufacturing methods and bigger, better, more efficient turbines,” said Tacke.
“But even if the sector is ready for the challenge, more needs to be done to replace fossil fuels while ensuring a stable electricity supply.”
Michael Hayes, global renewables lead at KPMG, noted that though wind power, and renewable energy more widely, had been “embraced” by the investment community as a “highly attractive asset class” current government policy environments meant “there are not enough investment-ready renewable projects to satisfy what has become an insatiable demand from investors globally.”
“To address this investment mismatch, it is critical that governments continue to introduce favourable policies, particularly in emerging economies. The investment community will respond in kind if policy certainty and stability can be achieved,” said Hayes, adding that this extended beyond regulatory frameworks into “availability of grid, land ownership, and bankable PPAs [power production agreements].”
Analyst group Wood Mackenzie forecasts some 723GW of wind additions from 2019-28 period.
Tacke used the occasion of the launch of the report to make a call to action to students to choose to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies and pursue careers in renewable energy “so as to play their part in halting climate change”.
“Students have transformed the climate change debate in 2019, bringing new urgency and energy to the growing crisis. Data supports this concern, as 60% of wildlife has been lost in just over 40 years,” he said.
“You can do something. You can choose to be the one that will make change happen. Choose STEM,” he said. “Choose a career that will turn your curiosity and passion for change into solutions. Solutions that we need now, and which we will need even more tomorrow.”