Governments are turning to the offshore wind industry to bring down their greenhouse gas emissions and achieve further energy security, according to a new industry report. Because offshore wind energy has become increasingly cheap and reliable, new installations of offshore wind capacity hit an all-time high last year, with 21.1GW connected to the grid and reaching 56GW of total capacity. Basically, the entire sector increased by more than a third last year.
The latest Global Offshore Wind Report by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) coincided with the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon. At the conference, energy experts and governments have highlighted the role of offshore wind energy to contribute to reducing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Of the 21.1 GW in new offshore installations, 80% was contributed by China. This makes 2021 the fourth year that China has led the world in new offshore wind installations. A remarkable growth also occurred in Vietnam, which commissioned 779 MW of new projects. In addition to Asia, Europe also reported significant growth.
“It’s been an astonishing year for the offshore wind sector. Governments are now recognizing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that offshore wind represents to deliver secure, affordable and clean energy while fostering industrial development and job creation,” Ben Backwell, the CEO of GWEC, said in a press conference in Lisbon.
An expanding trend
The offshore wind market outlook in the medium and long-term looks extremely promising, the GWEC said in its report, as countries seek energy independence from Russian oil and gas and amid the volatility in the fossil fuel market. Due to these ambitions, GWEC decided to raise its outlook for 2030 by 16.7% to 316GW installed.
There are 23GW of offshore wind currently under construction around the world. This is led by Europe with a 49.5% share and Asia with 46.6%. However, the report predicts that by the end of the year Asia will replace Europe as the world’s largest offshore market and that it could take until 2031 for Europe to regain the top spot in offshore.
By country, China is now the most active market, with 7.8 GW of offshore wind capacity under construction. The second one is the UK, with 5.6GW under construction, followed by the Netherlands, Taiwan, France and Germany. Last year also saw 57MW of new floating wind installed, of which 48 MW was in the UK.
GWEC argued governments, industry and other stakeholders will have to work together to ensure the ambitions for the offshore wind energy sector are turned into action. The report especially highlighted the challenges for the global supply chain to scale up much faster over the next decade to meet the expected level of growth.
“On one hand, we see political ambitions increase exponentially. But on the other hand, the industry is facing increasing costs and disrupted supply chains, jeopardising its long-term ability to realize these targets,” Ulrik Stridbæk, Vice President of Ørsted, a wind energy company from Denmark, said, speaking in Lisbon at a press conference.
Ultimately, we’re going to need a lot more growth in this sector if we are to transition to a sustainable electricity grid. Wind accounts for just around 6% of global electricity production and despite remarkable progress, we’re going to need much more.