Wind energy could provide up to a fifth of all global electricity needs by 2030, according to a new report by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International.
Examining different scenarios for the development of the industry and projected levels of electricity demand, "Global Wind Energy Outlook 2012" (pdf) predicts "installed capacity could increase by more than four-fold," from 240GW to 1,100GW by 2020, The Guardian reports.
That would supply between 11.7 and 12.6 percent of global electricity, and save nearly 1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions.
A more modest scenario could increase total capacity to between 587 GW and 759 GW, and provide up to 8.3 percent of global electricity supply.
With wind energy cost competitive with fossil fuels in more areas, "it is clear that wind energy is going to play a major role in our energy future," Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the GWEC, said.
But he said governments must act quickly to develop more renewable energy policies and "act quickly to address the climate crisis, while there's still time."
"The most important ingredient for the long term success of the wind industry is stable, long term policy, sending a clear signal to investors about the government's vision for the scope and potential for the technology," said Sven Teske, Greenpeace's senior energy expert.
According to the report:
Wind power has now established itself as a mainstream electricity generation source, and plays a central role in an increasing number of countries’ immediate and longer term energy plans. After 15 years of average cumulative growth rates of about 28%, the commercial wind power installations in about 80 countries at the end of last year totalled about 240 GW, having increased by more than 40 times over that same period. Twenty two countries have more than 1,000 mW installed.
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Wednesday's GWEC/Greenpeace report follows by one day a report noting that the US is likely to become the leading oil and gas producer by 2020— which according to GWEC/Greenpeace "suggest that the US has the capacity to match Germany's green movement but is instead using its resources to deepen its dependency on fossil fuels."
Also on Tuesday, Arne Jungjohann, a director at the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation (HBSF), said at a press conference that Germans are baffled that the US—the wealthiest nation in the world—has not proven itself a leader in renewable energy sources.
Germany has converted 25 percent of its power grid to renewable energy sources such assolar, wind and biomass, according to Truthdig.com. Germany has created incentives for people to invest in renewable energy, and the group Energiewende predicts that 80 to 100 percent of Germany's electricity will come from reneable sources by 2050.
In the United States, frustration grew as discussion of climate change continued to be absent from capaign discussions, but on Wednesday, President Barack Obama finally mentioned the importance of addressing it—albeit prioritizng the issue after the economy.
While Obama has a better track record than Romney on supporting renewable energy and has increased fuel efficiency standards for cars, wrote Mary Bottari and Sara Jerving today, the administration has not tackled the topic of climate change in a serious and comprehensive way and has impeded international agreements to do so.
The wind energy industry could potentially employ 2.1 million people by 2020 — a three-fold increase—the report estimates.
After years of growth, however, the annual global wind energy market may remain flat for several years and then shrink before growing again.
The GWEC/Greenpeace report states:
"There are many exciting new markets in Latin America, Africa and Asia where we see major potential for growth in the medium to long term; but absent a new means for putting a global price on carbon, new demand growth in the OECD borne on a strong economic recovery, or some other unforeseen development, the industry's rate of growth will slow substantially in the coming few years."