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Analysis: Wind industry vying to become partner for global economic recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold suffering and created an unprecedented economic and social challenge for the world. Within this global effort, the wind industry is positioning itself as a key partner for governments to renew critical infrastructure for a sustainable future.

Wind industry stakeholders, led by the Global Wind Energy Council, have signed the following statement, indicating readiness to make an important and long-lasting contribution to economic recovery:

Countries and communities are facing economic contractions, with surging unemployment, disruptions to capital flows, and growing debt burdens.

Governments and financial institutions are doing their best to respond. While rightly focusing on fighting the pandemic and safeguarding their citizens, policymakers across the world are starting to plan for economic recovery. Estimates of stimulus packages that have already been launched or announced are in excess of $10 trillion globally.

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The lasting impact of COVID-19 and the pace of global recovery will depend on the actions that we all take over the coming months. To achieve a sustainable and lasting economic recovery, these actions should focus on long-term impacts as well as the short-term need to generate growth and jobs. Governments need to ensure that their primary focus is on facilitating the clean energy transition, upholding emission standards and targeting public investments to “Rebuild Better” for the future.

Wind industry a cornerstone of the global economic recovery

  • Wind energy has been a source of massive capital investment, as one of the fastest-growing new industrial sectors in the world. From 2015 to 2019 alone, wind energy generated over $652 billion in investments. Ramping up installed wind capacity to above 2TW of capacity by 2030 would create an additional annual investment of $207 billion or over $2 trillion. The wind industry will also continue to be a major driver of innovation and investment in R&D as the industry introduces the next generation of wind energy turbine platforms.
  • Wind energy has been a major creator of skilled jobs and community benefits, and international agencies estimate that direct and indirect jobs in wind energy will more than triple from 1.2 million in 2018 to nearly 4 million globally by 2030 if deployment takes place at the necessary rate.
  • The wind industry is part of a vital push to renew the world’s energy infrastructure. Creating sufficient clean generation capacity, a flexible power grid that is ready for zero-carbon renewable energy and sufficient ports infrastructure for offshore wind are fundamental building blocks for wider economic recovery. With the expected availability of low-cost finance via stimulus packages, the coming years will be vital for creating the infrastructure of the future.
  • Wind energy is at the heart of the energy transition, a necessary shift to a sustainable future for our society and its people. Before COVID-19, the global community had started to make strong progress in implementing the Paris Accord to prevent damaging and irreversible climate change. The pandemic has created a temporary reduction in carbon emissions, but experience shows that these will quickly bounce back and it is vital that we redouble efforts to fix climate change for good.

Wind energy is competitive around the world. We are not asking for a bail-out, but we do need a level playing field. It is vital that governments focus public funding on assets and infrastructure that will facilitate and accelerate our transition to a low carbon future.

As oil prices continue to drop below historic lows, we strongly encourage governments to introduce meaningful carbon pricing mechanisms to fund the transition to a better-built future. Revenues from properly priced carbon instruments can provide governments with the funding to develop the fully sustainable infrastructure of the future.

At the same time, power markets have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis and the massive reduction of demand. Governments must take measures to stimulate demand by moving decisively to electrify the economy, including key sectors such as transport, heating and industry, as well as continue to retire ageing fossil fuel capacity in order to create rational and competitive prices.

The wind industry is calling on governments, intergovernmental bodies, and global lending institutions, to put wind energy investment, at the centre of their economic recovery and growth plans by taking the following actions:

  1. Investment for a sustainable and resilient future

Introduce meaningful carbon pricing on an international basis and promote a level playing field across energy sources to allow the accelerated deployment of renewables and electrification of sectors such as transport, heating and cooling and industry.

Ensure that adequate investment flows towards critical infrastructure, including power systems and grid infrastructure, at a low cost of finance and with adherence to sustainability standards.

Provide strong support for innovation and R&D programs in order to allow the accelerated deployment of the next generation of wind turbine platforms.

Introduce clear criteria that investment schemes for public and private bodies are built upon the principle of “No Harm” for society and the environment.

Implement evidence-based decision-making for government-backed investment, guided by metrics such as impact on GDP, environmental impact, resource depletion, social value and system resilience.

Safeguard institutional and multilateral lending and relief funds by instituting reporting requirements for sustainability and climate-related disclosures, in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

Move swiftly to scale up green financing for emerging markets and developing economies, which are facing accelerated capital flight and growing debt that hinders their clean energy transition.

  1. An enabling environment for clean energy

Implement regulation that is fit for purpose, including market design that provides long term price visibility and streamlined permitting that enables rapid ramp up of deployment.

Safeguard existing and awarded wind projects, avoid retroactive changes to approved remuneration schemes, and secure continuation of planned clean energy auctions.

Create adequate frameworks to allow extensive and efficient repowering of older wind power plants.

Enable and promote end-consumer 100% renewable energy demand in order to allow corporates to ramp up and meet their sustainability objectives. Remove regulatory barriers where these exist in order to enable corporates to freely purchase renewable energy.

Dis-incentivise investment in polluting, expensive and aging fossil fuel assets by introducing pricing mechanisms which reflect the true economic, social, environmental and health costs of fossil fuel generation and completely phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies.

Accelerate net-zero commitments, carbon budgets, carbon pricing, and science-based approaches among government bodies and corporates as they announce their economic recovery plans.

Increase ambitions to decarbonise all economic sectors through electrification.

Reject proposals to dilute or recall legislation for environmental protection

  1. Empowerment of people to drive the energy transition forward

Capitalise on the enormous potential for the wind energy industry to create direct and indirect jobs by prioritising renewable energy for investment.

Re-skill workers who may be dislocated from sectors with a declining business case for employment in a growing sector like offshore wind.

Commit to a just and inclusive energy transition by ensuring that recovery plans focus on equitable distribution of resources, training and skills development across genders, minority groups and marginalised communities.

Maintain health and safety as a core pillar of wind energy and workforce planning.

Find the full list of signatories here.

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.