An offshore wind farm in sunset

IEA Calls For 70+ GW of Offshore Wind to Be Added Each Year Until 2050

Almost 90 per cent of global electricity generation in 2050 could come from renewable energy sources, with solar PV and wind together accounting for nearly 70 per cent, according to International Energy Agency’s new Net Zero 2050 roadmap.

Illustration; Photo source: Ørsted

The roadmap, published on 18 May, calls for scaling up solar and wind energy rapidly this decade to reach 390 GW of wind capacity added per year by 2030, of which new installed offshore wind capacity annually would be around 80 GW. By 2050, IEA sees 350 GW of wind energy added to the global energy mix each year, with 70 GW of that being installed offshore, in order for the world to achieve carbon neutrality.

Source: IEA ‘Net Zero 2050’ roadmap

Transforming the electricity sector in the way envisioned in the Net‐Zero Emissions Scenario (NZE) involves large capacity additions for all low‐emissions fuels and technologies, with global renewable energy capacity more than tripling by 2030 and increasing ninefold to 2050.

“From 2030 to 2050, this means adding more than 600 GW of solar PV capacity per year on average and 340 GW of wind capacity per year including replacements, while offshore wind becomes increasingly important over time (over 20% of total wind additions from 2021 to 2050, compared with 7% in 2020)”, IEA states.

Offshore wind technology has been maturing rapidly in recent years and its deployment is poised to accelerate further in the near term. The current focus is on fixed‐bottom installations, but floating offshore wind starts to make a major contribution from around 2030 in the NZE, helping to unlock the enormous potential that exists around the world, IEA states.

As the roadmap projects no new oil and gas fields approved for development beyond projects already committed as of 2021 (and no new coal mines or mine extensions required), bringing a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand, the focus for oil and gas producers switches entirely to output – and emissions reductions – from the operation of existing assets.

While traditional supply activities decline over the next few decades, the expertise of the oil and gas industry fits well with technologies that will be increasingly used in the global energy mix, such as hydrogen, CCUS and offshore wind, according to IEA. Here, the oil and gas industry could play a key role in helping to develop at scale a number of clean energy technologies and bringing down their costs.

Looking specifically at offshore wind, IEA states that about 40 per cent of the lifetime costs of a standard offshore wind project involve significant synergies with the offshore oil and gas sector.

The oil and gas industry has considerable experience of working in offshore locations, which could be of value in the construction of foundations and subsea structures for offshore wind farms, especially when using vessels during installation and operation. The experience of maintaining safety standards in oil and gas companies could also be helpful during maintenance and inspection of offshore wind farms once they are in operation, according to the report.

Offshore wind is also among the technologies that could help scale up green hydrogen production, the report says, where once again the oil and gas industry – which will see a drastic decrease in demand for fossil fuel – can tap into with its existing experience and expertise.