Accelerating the uptake of wind energy would significantly reduce pollution, save lives and preserve vital water resources, according to a new report from KPMG commissioned by Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy
The KPMG wind energy report – The socioeconomic impacts of wind energy in the context of the energy transition – highlighted significant gains for society through the delivery of clean energy. It found that wind could increase its contribution to global electricity demand nine times by 2040 (to 34%, from 4% at present). The report also highlighted the fast-growing role of offshore wind in the overall wind energy mix.
Wind could account for 23% of the necessary reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 – 5.6Bn tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the annual emissions of the 80 most polluting cities, the report said. This reduction would have real benefits for society, saving up to 4M lives a year and reducing health-related costs by up to US$3.2Trn a year.
In response, Siemens Gamesa chief executive Markus Tacke called on students across the world to opt for studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers in renewable energy so as to play their part in halting climate change.
Speaking at the launch of the report on 11 October 2019, Mr Tacke acknowledged the impact that young people have had on the climate change issue and made a commitment to bringing clean energy to society as part of the effort to tackle the crisis.
He issued a call to action to young people, highlighting concerns that a serious shortfall of students pursuing STEM careers could leave the industry short of the talent it needs to drive change.
“You can do something. You can choose to be the one that will make change happen. Choose STEM,” he said. “Choose a career that will turn your curiosity and passion for change into solutions. Solutions that we need now, and which we will need even more tomorrow.”
Mr Tacke also highlighted the role that regulators, governments and companies have in driving energy transformation. “We all come from different areas, but we all have the same concern: how to use the knowledge and the instruments we have right now to start addressing climate change, because there is real urgency.
“Financial incentives and clear policies are still lacking. The barriers to a full-scale transition to renewable energy lie not just with technology costs, but also with long-term strategies and investments to make those ambitious plans reality,” he said.
The report also identified other key gains from the energy transformation. Water scarcity is becoming a major problem, affecting 40% of the world’s population. The report highlights that wind could save 16Bn m3 of water by 2030.
Other conclusions from the report are that renewables could also be key to improving wellbeing in less developed countries. Around the world, 1Bn people still do not have access to electricity and 2.7Bn have no access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking. With an ambitious energy transition, universal access to both electricity and clean cooking would be achieved within a decade.
Highlighting that while onshore wind has been the dominant segment for years, offshore wind now grows faster, thanks to technological advances and cost reduction, the report said offshore “presents important advantages, such as higher capacity factors, predictability, new economic opportunities in coastal areas and, if floating foundations keep improving, it could supply large coastal demand centres (40% of global population lives <100km from the sea).
“Bigger turbines allow for better energy yield in locations with lower wind speeds,” said the report, “also highlighting smarter operation and maintenance thanks to IT developments and digitalisation.”
The report also highlighted other key drivers behind cost reductions in offshore wind, such as shorter installation times and developer experience and supply chain efficiencies. For instance, installation times for turbine and foundations have fallen from three to one day per MW.