Let's face it - extreme weather, floods and droughts, melting ice and disappearing species as a result of climate change are enough to ruin anyone's day. So here's some good news for a change, brought to you by the wind industry:
1. Wind power had a fantastic year in 2014, led by China which installed more than 23 Gigawatts (GW) of clean renewable wind energy, enough to power about 25 million Chinese homes. The industry set a new global record with a total of more than 51 GW installed in a single year. Our new projections in our hot off the press Global Wind Report show that the trend will continue for the rest of the decade, with annual installations reaching 60 GW/year by 2018, and supplying 6-7% of global electricity supply by 2020, up from about 3% at present. Denmark already got 39% of its electricity from wind last year; Spain 20%, Germany almost 10%, the US 5%. The even better news is that most of the new growth now is in emerging markets, where emissions growth is slowing because of wind, solar and other renewables, and increasing energy efficiency.
2. Wind power is now the cheapest way to add new power generation to the grid in a long and growing list of countries: Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia and in large portions of the US and China. In fact, most of the growth in 2014 was not driven by climate policy, but rather by wind power's competitiveness, by its contributions to energy security, price stability, and the economic development and jobs that it provides. Add to that the need to rid the large cities of the developing world from the choking smog which threatens to make them unlivable, and wind power is increasingly becoming the power option of choice for large scale, clean electricity to power economic development. In the second quarter of this year wind will surpass nuclear in terms of total installed capacity globally, although it will be a few more years before it surpasses nuclear in terms of production.
3. China is set to pass the government's target of 200 GW of wind power by 2020 at least a year early, and last year China installed more renewable energy capacity than coal for the first time. Spurred on to clean up the air in Beijing, Shanghai and other urban areas, and to decrease its dependence on coal and contribute to stabilizing the climate. Wind is not the only technology growing by leaps and bounds: China now has the world's largest wind market, the world's largest solar market, and has twice as much solar hot water capacity as the rest of the world combined. While it is always the case that China could do more, they have become renewable energy leaders in an extremely short time.
4. Latin America's wind energy markets are booming, led by Brazil, which has come from nowhere to join the top 10 wind energy markets in 2014, and wind is on track to be the #2 energy source in that country by 2017 or so. Mexico's energy reform is about to unleash a renewables boom in that country, which will play an important role in meeting its recently announced ambitious climate targets; and Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama all have major new wind installations.
5. Africa is moving to exploit its massive renewable energy potential to create clean, affordable power to increase energy access and fuel economic growth. Nearly 1 GW of new wind power was installed in Africa in 2014, and we expect the market to far surpass that number in 2015, and not look back. Led initially by South Africa, Morocco and Egypt, there are a host of new markets springing up in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana, with many more to follow. In fact, we expect a race between Africa and Latin America to be the 4th major market after Asia, Europe and North America. Latin America is leading at the moment, but Africa may catch up quickly.
Wind power's boom is not the only story in the renewable energy world. Solar PV is making great strides as well, and governments in Europe and elsewhere are making plans for managing an electricity system that is dominated by clean, affordable energy from the wind and sun. Whatever comes out of the Paris climate summit in December, the renewable energy revolution is well underway, and it's unstoppable.