Wind energy CEOs urge G20 to 'get serious' about renewables

By Dominic Ellis
23 CEOs sign open letter to G20 leaders saying current net zero pledges still put the world on a 2.4C global warming pathway

Leading CEOs of the global wind industry have called on G20 members to "get serious about renewables" in the climate crisis by raising national ambitions and urgently laying out concrete plans for increased wind energy production to replace fossil fuels.

Representing the Global Wind Energy Coalition for COP26, 23 CEOs have sent an open letter to leaders of the G20 acknowledging that while some progress has been made in the energy transition, current net zero pledges from G20 countries still put the world on a 2.4C global warming pathway, well beyond what is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Meanwhile, wind energy and renewables installations are currently falling well short of the trajectory needed to meet international climate goals, requiring urgent action to improve energy policies.

"G20 member countries represent more than 80% of global energy-related carbon emissions – so the leaders of these countries hold the power and public duty to transform the world's energy system," said GWEC CEO Ben Backwell. "These countries need to get serious about renewables, and in particular wind energy as the clean energy solution with the most potential to help the world meet its Paris Agreement targets."

The letter is signed by the leaders of the largest wind power companies – including Vestas Wind Systems, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, Orsted, SSE, RWE, and Mainstream Renewable Power, and associations representing the industry in key geographies such as the UK, Brazil, China, Mexico, and South Africa.

The signatories highlight that the recent roadmap from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that annual wind deployment must quadruple from 93 GW in 2020 to 390 GW in 2030 to meet a net zero by 2050 scenario. Both the IEA and IRENA are aligned in the total wind energy capacity required for a net zero scenario which is compatible with a 1.5°C warming pathway, foreseeing a need for 8,265 GW and 8,100 GW by 2050, respectively.

If current growth rates for wind energy persist, the letter argues that global wind capacity will fall dramatically short of the volumes required for carbon neutrality by 2050, with installation shortfalls of as much as 57% by 2050.

"G20 countries have huge amounts of untapped wind power potential which can fulfil significant portions of national electricity demand, but they are barely scratching the surface of what they can deploy. With the current pace of wind power installations across the world, forecasts show that we will only install less than half of the wind power capacity needed to get to net zero by 2050," said Rebecca Williams, Director of COP26 at GWEC.

To reach this necessary level of deployment, the open letter calls on G20 nations to:

  • Raise ambition for wind power at national level
  • Implement effective policy and regulatory frameworks for procurement and delivery of renewable energy
  • Commit to planning clean energy infrastructure including grids and transmission
  • Agree effective and credible carbon pricing mechanisms
  • Align national and regional finance flows with benchmarks for a net 1.5°C-compliant pathway
  • Develop cohesive and inclusive policies which dedicate public resource to the shift to a net zero economy.

In the last 20 years, wind energy has demonstrated its ability to increase production exponentially while reducing costs, create millions of skilled jobs and spur large-scale infrastructure investment.

But the letter emphasises that achieving the scale and speed of deployment needed to tap into these benefits and achieve net zero ambitions is unrealistic under the present "business as usual" conditions, and unachievable without decisive and urgent policy change across the G20 countries.

The open letter to the G20 heads of state was also shared with a number of government, energy, finance and institutional leaders, including the leaders of COP26, UNFCCC, IRENA, IEA, IMF, WEF and a number of multilateral development banks.

Last month, an India Wind Energy Market Outlook 2025report, jointly released today by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and MEC Intelligence (MEC+) found the country, the world’s fourth-largest wind power market, is expected to add nearly 20.2 GW of new wind power capacity between 2021-2025. This would increase the country’s 39.2 GW wind market by nearly 50% and is a clear signal that the market is beginning to bounce back after a slowdown in recent years.

Installation and market growth

  • The wind industry installed a record 93 GW of new capacity in 2020, a 53% year-on-year increase, demonstrating the sector’s strong resilience despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the best year for onshore wind in history and the second-best year for offshore wind.
  • 87 GW of onshore wind power was installed in 2020 (75% from China and the US).
  • 6 GW of offshore wind power was installed in 2020 (75% from China and the Netherlands).
  • Global installed wind capacity is now 743 GW, helping the world to avoid over 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions annually – equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of South America:
    • Total onshore installed capacity: 707.4 GW
    • Total offshore installed capacity: 35.3 GW
  • The Top 5 wind markets in terms of total installed capacity are:
    • China – 288 GW
    • US – 122 GW
    • Germany – 63 GW
    • India – 39 GW
    • Spain – 27 GW
  • The Asia Pacific region installed 56 GW of new wind power capacity in 2020, a 78% year-on-year increase, led by China which installed 52 GW alone.
  • The Asia Pacific region is driving growth of the global wind industry, accounting for 60% of all new wind power capacity in 2020.
  • Total wind power capacity in Asia Pacific is now nearly 347 GW, making it the region with the most wind power capacity worldwide

According to GWEC Market Intelligence, nearly 7GW of wind power capacity was auctioned globally in Q1 2021 – a 160% year-on-year increase compared to Q1 2020, which saw only 2.7GW auctioned due to a slowdown caused by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Offshore wind accounted for the majority of the new wind power capacity awarded in the first quarter of the year, with 3.9GW awarded. Emerging offshore wind market US made up 64% of this new awarded capacity thanks to a second offshore wind solicitation in New York of 2.5 GW which was originally scheduled for July 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. The 2.5GW were awarded to Equinor and BP.

In McKinsey's Global Energy Perspective 2021 Report, renewables will become cheaper than existing fossil plants within the next decade, which will trigger a sharp uptake in the installed capacity of solar PV and onshore and offshore wind (5TW of new solar and wind capacity installed by 2035 - equivalent to fivefold growth).

  • Aker Solutions, as part of a consortium, has signed a major EPCI contract with an undisclosed customer to provide the HVDC (high-voltage, direct current) transmission system for a large offshore wind project. More details are expected to be announced by the customer and its partners in Q3.

Featured Articles

Digital Realty & Schneider: Powering Net Zero Data Centres

With Schneider Electric, Digital Realty has signed five renewable energy PPAs, totalling 134MW, to bring its global renewable energy contract to 1.4GW

Collaboration Driving New Zealand's Renewable Energy Future

Spark and Genesis Energy will join forces to supply the telco with renewable energy to power its operations, providing a cleaner energy future for NZ

Is Volcanic Ash an Answer to Efficient Solar Energy Storage?

Volcanic ash, typically seen as a disruptive force, is now hailed by University of Barcelona researchers as a valuable energy storage medium

EY: How CEOs are Pushing Energy Transition Priorities


Reducing Low-Carbon Hydrogen Costs Key to Decarbonisation


Sustainability LIVE Among World’s Top Sustainability Events