Wind has potential to generate 12% of electricity by 2050, predicts IEA

The largest adopter of wind energy will be China, where wind turbines will generate almost 2000 TWh a year by 2050, compared with virtually nothing now. OECD Europe will be second-largest regional market, at more than 1000 TWh/a from wind.

The global output from wind turbines will be 5000 TWh by 2050, the roadmap estimates. Solar electric photovoltaic (PV) will generate another 11% of global electricity by mid-century, reaching 4500 TWh/a, of which half will be from the residential sector.

The predictions were made by IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka in a presentation to EU energy leaders at a meeting in Seville, Spain. He discussed IEA’s 450 ppm climate scenario, implications of the recent COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen, and the IEA energy technology roadmaps

“The financial crisis has halted the rise in global fossil-energy use, but its long-term upward path will resume soon on current policies,” he explains. “Tackling climate change and enhancing energy security require a massive decarbonisation of the energy system."

Energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit but energy technology is the key towards meeting 2050 goals. Demand for natural gas continues to grow in any future scenario, peaking by 2025 in the low-carbon scenario, and Tanaka says gas can play a key role as a bridge to a cleaner energy future

An additional US$10.5 trillion of investment will be needed to reach the 450 scenario, and every year of delay in progress will add US$500 billion to mitigation costs. Renewable energy, nuclear and generating plants fitted with carbon sequestration will account for 60% of electricity by 2030 in the 450 scenario, up from less than one-third today, he adds.

Improvements to the internal combustion engine and the uptake of next-generation vehicles and biofuels will lead to a 56% reduction in new-car emission intensity, but non-OECD countries will account for 93% of the increase in global energy demand by 2030, driven largely by China and India. Energy subsidies among the largest 20 non-OECD countries reached US$310bn in 2007, creating “an unsustainable economic burden and exacerbating environmental effects.”

While in Spain, Tanaka visited the Abengoa Solar's PS20, a 20 MW concentrating solar power plant.