Wind energy CEOs warn G20 leaders over climate targets

The heads of many of the world’s biggest wind energy companies have told global leaders that efforts to meet global climate goals are “condemned to fail” if they do not urgently step up turbine installation.

Chief executives of groups including Vestas, Orsted, Siemens Gamesa, SSE and RWE Renewables wrote to G20 heads of state on Monday warning that they would “fall short” of the wind capacity required for carbon neutrality by 2050 by 43 per cent, based on current growth forecasts.

Wind energy is expected by groups including the International Energy Agency and the International Renewables Energy Agency to form the backbone of global electricity generation by 2050.

A record 93 gigawatts was installed in 2020 despite the global pandemic, largely in China and the US, but annual deployment will have to quadruple in the next decade to set big economies on the path to reach climate targets.

However, this will be “unachievable without decisive and urgent policy change across the G20 countries”, the chief executives warn in the letter, which was co-ordinated by the Global Wind Energy Council.

The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre off the coast of Scotland © REUTERS

They are urging governments to set more ambitious national wind energy targets as well as solve problems that prevent the delivery of projects such as “inadequate” permitting and planning regimes as well as insufficient investment in electricity grids.

Clean energy stocks have experienced a sharp sell-off this year, after reaching all-time highs in January, as nervousness has crept in among investors about the speed of the sector’s growth.

Shares in Siemens Gamesa, the world’s largest offshore wind turbine maker, have fallen more than a fifth in the past five days after its latest profits warning last week, which cited several factors including a sharp increase in raw materials prices. Its shares have lost more than a third in the year to date; rivals Orsted and Vestas are down 30 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively, over the same period.

Ben Backwell, chief executive of the GWEC, said that problems varied according to the market, but even in the some of the more ambitious countries — such as the UK, where Boris Johnson plans to quadruple offshore wind capacity to 40GW by 2030 — it can take a “long, long time” for projects to come to fruition. He pointed out that seabed rights for offshore wind projects currently under construction were awarded more than a decade ago.

In emerging markets in particular, there were insufficient “push” factors to remove fossil fuels from the energy system, said Backwell. Renewables were often only added to increase capacity rather than replace existing polluting power stations, while in times of economic downturn renewable energy auctions were often cancelled.

The letter has been timed to come ahead of G20 ministerial sessions on the environment, climate and energy at the end of the week in Naples.

Climate groups were left disappointed after June’s G7 summit in Cornwall ended without specific plans for new climate financing.

“Action to tackle climate change is lagging, and time is running out,” the chief executives, who also include Miguel Stilwell d’Andrade of Portugal’s EDP and Mary Quaney of Mainstream Renewable Power, wrote in the letter. “The choices made in this year and in this decade are mission-critical to preserving our planet and avoiding climate catastrophe.”

Their urgency echoes calls from other groups — including the IEA, which warned in May that energy groups must stop all new oil and gas exploration from this year, while calling for a “historical surge” in investment, predominantly in clean energy technologies.

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