An Increase in Global Offshore Wind Capacity Target by GWEC and IRENA

The offshore wind industry is targeting a ten-fold increase in installed capacity by the end of the decade.

According to data from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), there was around 35 GW of offshore wind capacity installed globally as of 2020. But, if GWEC and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) goals are met, this will rocket to 380 GW by 2030, then 2,000 GW by 2050.

What’s the plan?

Earlier this year, GWEC and IRENA announced a new UN Global Compact stating that the two organizations will work together to:

  • “increase government ambition” to reach 380 GW of offshore wind installations globally by 2030, and 2,000 GW by 2050
  • enhance the collaboration between IRENA and GWEC to accelerate offshore wind development this decade, through “increased stakeholder engagement, capacity-building, technical assistance and support”.

How will the GWEC-IRENA compact work in practical terms?

Through IRENA’s ‘Collaborative Framework on Ocean Energy/Offshore Renewables’, the two organizations will aim to deepen governments’ understanding of offshore wind as reflected in each country's nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

The two organizations also want to expand membership of the framework with the aim of getting more governments to expand their interests in offshore wind. 

The compact states that “given the project development and construction timelines for offshore wind, these interventions are urgently needed”.

Additionally, the compact means IRENA and GWEC will assess the “institutional and resource gaps” that may hamper the efforts to achieve the 2030 and 2050 targets. “Twinned with an increase in outreach and dialogue with policymakers in countries new to offshore wind, these ambitions should help increase the geographical spread of the sector to help ensure the world’s 2050 target is met,” a GWEC statement said.

How will the compact advance sustainable development goals?

GWEC says the compact will advance sustainable development goals in six ways:

  1. Provide affordable electricity New fixed-bottom offshore wind capacity is forecast to become cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity early this decade
  2. Provide clean power Offshore wind will provide the power to meet the energy needs of millions of homes
  3. Reduce carbon emissions and air pollution New offshore wind capacity will replace fossil fuel sources which can create smog, asthma and other health issues
  4. Boost economic growth A 500 MW project can create 2.1 million days of work over its 25-year project lifetime, GWEC says
  5. Support energy security New offshore wind capacity will reduce reliance on imported energy and fossil fuels and operate at “lower variability compared to other renewable energy sources”, according to GWEC.
  6. Save water Offshore wind will displace water-consuming fossil fuel-based generation.

What they say

Ben Backwell, CEO at GWEC, says: “This compact sets out a clear framework to support world governments as they try to reach ‘Net Zero’ targets. The rapid acceleration of offshore wind development in every region of the world is vital if we are to meet our collective objectives, and the message from IRENA and GWEC is clear: World leaders, the industry is here to help you make it happen.”

Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA, says: “Offshore renewables have the potential to meet more than 20 times today’s global power demand. Particularly, offshore renewables constitute a critical pillar for decarbonizing energy systems and fostering a global blue economy, supporting economic growth and climate resilience.”