What if one of the key solutions to fighting climate change was in our ocean?

On World Ocean Day 2021, the global wind industry has been joined by a growing coalition of voices calling for governments to urgently raise their offshore wind ambitions. 

2021 marks the start of an important decade. For some, it is the UN Decade of Action to deliver our Sustainable Development Goals. For others, it is the Decade of Ocean Science to support ocean health and common ocean frameworks. But for every one of us, this is the make-or-break decade that will get us on the trajectory to reach global net zero emissions by 2050 and limit global warming of our planet to 1.5°C by end-of-century, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Offshore wind will be a core technology to deliver the large-scale, reliable, affordable and zero-carbon power needed to accelerate the global energy transition. As the renewable energy with the most decarbonisation potential per MW installed, the world will need to deploy offshore wind on a massive scale to displace fossil fuels-based generation.

Messages from Ocean Stakeholders

On World Ocean Day 2021, the global wind industry has been joined by a growing coalition of voices calling for governments to urgently raise their offshore wind ambitions.

The magnitude of the challenge is matched by the magnitude of opportunity. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there is enough offshore wind resource globally to meet the world’s entire electricity demand today – 18 times over. Using current technology, the World Bank estimates around 71,000 GW of fixed and floating offshore wind potential worldwide. With only 35 GW installed today, that means we have barely scratched the surface of offshore wind’s potential.

We need higher targets,  bold visions, concrete policy frameworks and open dialogues which recognise offshore wind as a key ocean-based solution to climate change. With less than six months to go until COP26, there is no better time than now for governments to step up and seize the enormous benefits of offshore wind.

Sturla Henriksen, UNGC Special Adviser
& Martha Selwyn, Associate, UNGC Sustainable Ocean Business

Ignace Beguin, UNFCCC Ocean Lead of Climate Champions

Gonzalo Muñoz, COP25 High-level Climate Action Champion

Martin Gerhardt, Head of Offshore Wind Product Management, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy

Johan Sandberg, Head of Business Development, Aker Offshore Wind

Joost Bergsma, Managing Partner/CEO, Glennmont Partners

Marco Wiedijk, VP Business Development, Principle Power

Cameron Smith, General Manager, Offshore, Mainstream Renewable Power

Elbia Gannoum, CEO, ABEEólica

Melanie Onn, Deputy Chief Executive, RenewableUK

Alastair Dutton, Chair of GWEC’s Global Offshore Wind Task Force

Joyce Lee, Head of Policy and Projects, GWEC

How much offshore wind do we need by 2050 to meet our climate goals?

In 2020, the multi-stakeholder Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC) set a target of 1,400 GW by 2050 to sustain a 1.5°C pathway, which went far beyond long-term scenarios at the time. Now, institutions like the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) are recognising offshore wind’s role in energy system transformation, and calling for at least 2,000 GW of offshore wind deployed by 2050 to maintain a 1.5°C warming pathway and deliver net zero emissions by the middle of the century.

The world is at a historic moment, when the largest international organisations like the UNFCCC, intergovernmental energy agencies like the IEA and IRENA, as well as businesses, NGOs and climate activists are all converging to agree on the scale of change needed. With only 35 GW of offshore wind installed in the world today, there is a wide gap to close to get us on-track. To have a chance of delivering 2,000 GW of offshore wind by 2050, we need to see bold offshore wind ambition from governments and non-state actors in this decade.

Despite its vast potential, offshore wind remains largely untapped as a global renewable energy resource. We are on-track to install only 234 GW of offshore wind by 2030, according to GWEC Market Intelligence, and only the European Union has set a long-term goal to 2050 for 300 GW of offshore wind.

What are the benefits of offshore wind?

Offshore wind delivers numerous benefits, from affordable electricity to job creation on a massive scale. Following deployment in Europe and China over the last decade, offshore wind has achieved incredible cost reduction with levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) declining by nearly two-thirds, making it cost-competitive with fossil fuels in markets around the world. Experts predict that the costs of offshore wind are set to continue dropping over the next few decades.

Fixed-bottom offshore wind has high capacity factors far exceeding those of all other renewable energy technologies. With continued innovation and the coming commercialisation of floating offshore wind, there is potential to increase this generation productivity even further. This reliability and predictability make offshore wind a stable renewable energy source with tremendous system value.

Offshore wind has proven to be a source of sustainable job creation, due to a long and sophisticated supply chain. A longer project development timeline and project lifetimes that average 25 years also mean that many of these jobs, such as in operations and maintenance (O&M), are permanent, localized employment which can revitalize nearby coastal communities.

Lifecycle analysis also reflects that offshore wind plants have short energy payback and carbon payback periods, particularly compared to fossil fuels-based generation.

How can countries develop a thriving offshore wind sector?

The multi-stakeholder Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC) commissioned a report by BVG Associates which outlined five fundamental building blocks to developing offshore wind: stable policies; pipeline visibility; resourced institutions; a supportive and engaged public; and a competitive environment. Explanation and illustrations of each component, along with case studies, can be found in the OREAC report “The Power of Our Ocean” (2020).

OREAC and GWEC have also published an Offshore Wind Market Readiness Assessment, which can be applied to countries at any stage of offshore wind development. The tool is designed for professional facilitation by GWEC to assist policymakers, regulators and market enablers in developing a thriving offshore wind market.

 

Representatives of governments which are interested in applying this tool can contact GWEC here.

Discover the technical potential for offshore wind around the world

The multi-stakeholder Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition commissioned a series of maps which demonstrate the fixed and floating offshore wind potential within 200 km of the shoreline of countries and geographies around the world. This technical resource complements the 54 maps of offshore wind potential which have been published by ESMAP to date.

Note: Technical potential resource is a term used to describe the energy resource that is extractable with current technology in waters within 200 km of the shoreline. Links in teal in the alphabetical list below will take you to the World Bank Group’s ESMAP website to download their resource maps for non-OECD countries, and links in navy will take you to an automatic download of the maps produced by GWEC for the Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC)

How does offshore wind relate to other ocean-based climate action?

The ocean – covering more than 70% of the Earth’s surface – will play a critical role in constraining global warming. This is not only through providing ocean-based renewable energy like offshore wind, but also through the absorption of heat from carbon emissions associated with human activity, as well as nature-based solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The UNFCCC’s Climate Action Pathway for Oceans and Coastal Zones 2021 sets out a bold vision for 2050: A healthy and productive ocean for a resilient and net zero future. This pathway outlines the milestones in 2021, 2025, 2030 and 2040 to achieve this vision, across four change levers: nature-based solutions; aquatic food production; zero-emission shipping; and ocean renewable energy like offshore wind.

The MSPglobal Initiative has also published five policy briefs highlighting the importance of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) for a sustainable governance of the ocean. These documents aim to help decision-makers and relevant stakeholders make coordinated decisions that allow for a more sustainable use and management of marine resources.

It is 2050 and the Ocean is thriving and abundant…. Ocean renewable energy is now a major source of clean energy. Sustainably planned and managed offshore wind is scaled up in every region of the world. Other technologies such as wave and tidal energy are reliable contributors to the clean energy market. Offshore wind development and other maritime activities have been greatly supported by robust maritime/marine spatial planning (MSP) and investments in grid and transmission infrastructure, in turn protecting biodiversity, in harmonious co-existence with other ocean users.

— UNFCCC Oceans and Coastal Zones Climate Action Pathway 2021 Tweet

Want to learn more about offshore wind? Contact us!

Alastair Dutton

Chair of GWEC's Global Offshore Wind Task Force
alastair.dutton@gwec.net

Joyce Lee

Head of Policy & Projects
joyce.lee@gwec.net

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