The European Union (EU) revealed details of a huge offshore wind energy construction campaign today (November 19).

The EU has outlined its strategy to boost its installed offshore wind energy capacity from 12 GW today to 300 GW by 2050. The EU Commission’s Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy indicates that approximately EUR800 billion (USD947 billion) of investment will be required, some of which will come from the bloc’s Covid-19 stimulus package. 60 GW of capacity could come online by 2030.

RenewableUK’s recently published Offshore Wind Project Intelligence stated that the offshore wind energy project pipeline has grown 47 percent this year, despite the pandemic. 194 GW of offshore projects are operational, under construction, consented, in planning or in development – up from 134.7GW in mid-January.

The UK tops the leaderboard with 41.3 GW of new projects in the pipeline, up 12 percent since January 2020. China sits second with 26.1GW planned – up 80 percent since the start of the year. In third place is the USA with 17.8 GW of capacity lined up for development. Brazil has gone straight into fourth position – 16.3 GW of new offshore wind energy capacity has been announced since the start of the year.

Fossil declines

The decline of the fossil-fuel sector has been long mooted, as renewable energy technology advances. It is widely understood that the movement of wind energy cargoes has been the lifeblood of the heavy lift shipping sector in recent years. With countries around the world paying close attention to 2050 climate emission goals, the transition to greener forms of energy is speeding up rapidly.

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the short and medium-term prospects for renewables are promising.

In sharp contrast to all other fuels, renewables used for generating electricity will grow by almost 7 percent in 2020. Global energy demand is set to decline 5 percent over the year but long-term contracts, priority access to the grid and continuous installation of new plants are all underpinning strong growth in renewable electricity.

The IEA said that the renewable energy industry adapted quickly to the challenges of the Covid crisis; as such it revised its forecast for global renewable capacity additions in 2020 upwards by 18 percent from its previous update in May.

Supply chain disruptions and construction delays slowed the progress of renewable energy projects in the first six months of this year. However, construction of plants and manufacturing activity ramped up again quickly, and logistical challenges have been mostly resolved with the easing of cross-border restrictions since mid-May. The IEA said monthly capacity additions have exceeded previous expectations through September 2020, pointing to a faster recovery in Europe, the USA and China.

Looking to 2021, the IEA expects global installed renewable energy capacity to grow by 10 percent year-on-year – the fastest rate of growth since 2015.

The commissioning of delayed projects in markets where construction and supply chains were disrupted is driving this growth. Prompt government measures in key markets – the USA, India and some European countries – have authorised developers to complete projects several months after policy or auction deadlines that originally fell at the end of 2020, said IEA.

Secondly, market growth is set to continue next year in the USA, the Middle East and Latin America, thanks to a strong pre-Covid project pipeline facilitated by declining development costs and subsidy support.

The IEA expects India to be the largest contributor to the renewables upswing in 2021, with the country’s annual additions almost doubling from 2020. “A large number of auctioned wind and solar PV projects are expected to become operational following delays due not only to Covid-19 but also to contract negotiations and land acquisition challenges,” said the association.

A bump in the road for the renewables sector is forecast for 2022, with the expiry of incentives in key markets and the resulting policy uncertainties leading to a small decline in the rate of renewable capacity additions. Onshore wind energy is likely to be the biggest casualty of the upheaval, with additions expected to decline by 15 percent globally in 2022.

In China, onshore wind and solar PV subsidies expire this year, while offshore wind support ends in 2021. The policy framework for 2021-25 should be announced at the end of 2021, which leaves some questions about the expansion of the Chinese renewables sector in 2022. The sector’s growth will also be slowed by the expiry of the USA onshore wind production tax credit scheme, as well as delayed auctions in Latin America.

Nevertheless, total installed wind and solar PV capacity is on course to surpass natural gas in 2023 and coal in 2024, said IEA. Solar PV will account for 60 percent of all renewable capacity additions through 2025, while wind energy makes up another 30 percent. The IEA added that the rapid growth of variable renewable energies internationally calls for increased policy attention to ensure they are securely and cost-effectively integrated into electricity systems.

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