Blog, Green generation & storage

2021 becomes the second-best year in the history of the wind energy sector

The Global Wind Report 2022 of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) highlights an important year for the sector but calls for a political boost to reach a zero-emission horizon

2021 was confirmed as the second-best year ever for the wind energy sector, as noted in the “Global Wind Report 2022” issued by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). Thus, during 2021, and despite the unstable situation caused by the ravages of COVID-19 in the supply chain and the global economy, around 94 GW of capacity were installed worldwide, 1.8% down on the record achieved in 2020. The pandemic has clearly had an impact on the slowdown in wind power investments and installations in markets such as the US, India and Taiwan, for example. Nevertheless, the annual figures demonstrate, in GWEC’s own words, “the incredible resilience and upward trajectory of the global wind industry”.

With these 93.6 GW (the exact figure installed in 2021), the world’s wind generation capacity amounts to 837 GW, accumulating a sustained annual growth of 12%. Nevertheless, the GWEC points out that this growth, despite being positive, is still insufficient to achieve the zero net carbon emissions targets by 2050. To reach these goals, which would leave the rise in global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius, it would be necessary to quadruple the number of wind energy installations.

Wind power market growth per year
Wind power market growth per year

According to Ben Backwell, CEO of GWEC, the wind industry needs “more proactive policies” to achieve the aforementioned energy decarbonisation goals. To this end, Backwell hopes that “the last 12 months will serve as an important call to action to make a decisive move forward and shift to 21st century renewable energy systems”.  Backwell added that “the events of the past year, which have reflected the exposure of economies and consumers to fossil fuel volatility and rising energy prices around the world, are a symptom of the faltering and disorderly energy transition; while the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exposed the energy security implications of fossil fuel dependence.”

New wind capacities in 2021 by region and by country
New wind capacities in 2021 by region and by country

Wind energy trends at a glance

In terms of trends, the report shows that the two largest global wind power installers – China and the United States – developed less onshore wind capacity than last year, with 30.7 GW and 12.7 GW respectively; although other regions such as Europe (19%), Latin America (26%), Africa-Middle East (120%) made up for this decline by achieving new records.

On the other hand, the offshore wind sub-sector (installed in open waters, whether anchored to the sea floor or on floating platforms) had its best year ever, reaching the not inconsiderable figure of 21.1GW in orders. The culprit? China, which accounted for 80% of this growth, dethroning the United Kingdom as the country with the largest installed offshore wind energy capacity. Therefore, 48% of offshore wind installations worldwide correspond to China, 22% to the UK, 13% to Germany, 5% to the Netherlands, 4% to Denmark and the remaining 7% to all other countries combined.

The report also shows that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in wind power installation over the next five years would be 6.6%. While this figure may seem “tiny” in isolation, this compound growth would mean the development of projects worth 557 GW of installed capacity between 2022 and 2026. However, all this growth will be conditioned by the major challenges that the industry will face on the horizon, including geopolitics, social impacts, the global supply chain and the resilience of the electricity system.