The rise of the modern wind industry – it is worth reminding ourselves, as it has happened so very fast – has been nothing short of remarkable.

Armed with high ideals and what we would now think of as ‘baby’ wind turbines of up to 750kW, the pioneers of our sector in decades past envisioned a future where wind power would sweep onto the world energy stage, challenge the old incumbents, and be an engine for positive change in the world. Indeed, wind is now rightly seen by the majority as the epitome of a disruptive, clean power source.

But even as the journey has been an astonishing and inspiring one, with wind’s levelised cost of energy now competitive in the energy mainstream and the global rate of build-out of projects accelerating at an unprecedented clip, today we find ourselves at a critical moment.

While offshore wind continues its bullish expansion and onshore wind pushes into ever-more-remote locations around the world, we can also clearly see that current deployment projections fall far short of any realistic net-zero by 2050 scenario – not to mention the short- and near-term impact of inflation and today’s delivery bottlenecks that are currently rippling through the international supply chain.

There has been a fair amount of self-congratulation in recent years for the progress that is being made, much of it justified. It is indeed, a remarkable growth story and we all in the sector sleep a little better at night knowing we’re on the right side of history.

However, I suspect that we might be losing some of our original zeal from the early days – the passion that fuelled our disruptive tendencies before ‘disruption’ was even an industrial cliché. To be blunt about it, I fear we may be falling into the trap of thinking we’ve finally arrived, that the only thing to do now is to incrementally stroll our way to 2050.

It is incredibly difficult to change. Wind turbine makers the world over are battling to be profitable and leading developers have settled by tacit consensus on a business model based on ‘known’ technologies – it is, after all, hard graft to put new technology through its paces: the risk profile is high, the financial institutions are sceptical, the track record still unproven.

The ‘early days’ – lest we forget – were a grind. There were and are no shortcuts to bankable solutions, which begs the obvious question: ‘Why disrupt everything again when it took us so long to finally get to where we are today?’

Let’s scrutinise the numbers candidly. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, current projections for deployment through 2030 are exponentially lower than what is required to meet the International Energy Agency (IEA) ‘Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap’. We’re installing around 90GW per annum now, but demand will soften a bit this year and next due to expiry of feed-in-tariffs and incentives in large markets such as the US and China. To reach the IEA’s annual build-out target of 390GW by 2030, our industry must scale to a whopping four-fold increase in this decade.

If we’re going to have a fighting chance of reaching these ambitious goals, we must be asking the right questions: ‘How can we work smarter, not harder?’ ‘What nascent innovations are the most likely to scale and de-risk in the long-term?’ ‘Which budding supply chain revolutions are worthy of a more serious discussion and intelligently targeted investment?’

To drive the required step-change, we need to scale up deployment, it first requires a step-change in our thinking, or as I see it, a return to who we’ve always been. We must gather our teams in offices and on screen in these first weeks of 2022, starting with a clean slate, and rekindle our passion as disruptors, to get everyone’s wild ideas on the table, and be brutally honest about what it’s going to take to achieve what the world – rightly – now expects from us.

It’s a return to our roots, really. We are still the same pioneering lot we’ve always been! We would be wise to remember that as we look forward to what 2050 might look like on this planet.

· Wind industry veteran Julian Brown is currently non-executive chair of offshore engineering outfit Tekmar, as well holding non-executive directorships at SenseWind, BVG Associates, ORE Catapult, BW Ideol and RenewableUK