The Global Wind Energy Outlook Scenarios

The Global Wind energy Outlook scenarios examine the future potential of wind power up to 2020, 2030 and 2050.

Development of these scenarios was carried out as collaboration between the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), Greenpeace International and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). Projections on the future of wind energy development have contributed to a larger study of global sustainable energy pathways up to 2050 conducted by DLR for Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC)1.

What will the growth of wind power look like? There are many variables that will determine its path, and we are presenting three different scenarios for each region, and for the world as a whole, looking first towards 2020, and then onwards to 2030 (see annex table for more long-term projections up to 2050). Each scenario starts with a range of assumptions which will influence expectations for the wind energy industry's development.


The most conservative 'Reference' scenario is based on the projections in the 2009 World Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA). This takes into account only existing policies and measures, but includes assumptions such as continuing electricity and gas market reform, the liberalisation of cross-border energy trade and recent policies aimed at combating pollution. The IEA's figures only go out to the year 2030, but based on these assumptions, DLR has extrapolated both the overall Reference scenario and the growth of wind power up to 2050.


The 'Moderate' scenario takes into account all policy measures to support renewable energy either already enacted or in the planning stages around the world. It also assumes that the targets set by many countries for either renewables, emissions reductions and/or wind energy are successfully implemented, as well as the modest implementation of new policies aimed at pollution and carbon emission reduction, and increased energy security. It also takes into account environmental and energy policy measures that were part of many government economic stimulus packages implemented since late 2008.

Up to 2014 the figures for installed capacity are closer to being forecasts than scenarios. This is because the data available from the wind energy industry shows the expected growth of worldwide markets over the next five years based on orders for wind turbines already committed, existing legislative programmes and targets, as well as known manufacturing capacity expansion plans. After 2014 the pattern of development is more difficult to anticipate.


The most ambitious scenario, the 'Advanced' version examines the extent to which this industry could grow in a best case 'wind energy vision'. the assumption here is a clear and unambiguous commitment to renewable energy as per the industry's recommendations, along with the political will necessary to carry it forward.

While again, the development after 2014 is more difficult to predict, this scenario is designed to show what the wind energy sector could achieve if it were given the political commitment and encouragement it deserves in light of the twin crises of energy security and global climate change.


The GWEO scenarios show that even with the continuation of current policy measures to encourage wind power development and serious government efforts to meet existing targets, the resulting 'Moderate scenario' growth will put the development of wind power on a dramatically different trajectory from the IEA-based 'Reference' scenario.

With the political will to fully exploit each country's wind resource and reap the accompanying economic, environmental and energy security benefits, the 'Advanced scenario' could be reached, which would see substantial wind power growth in many regions of the world. Wind power would then be instrumental in achieving a genuine energy revolution, putting the world on the path to a sustainable energy future. We are now at a crossroads for making these decisions, which will determine the future of our energy systems as well as, to a great extent, the future of our planet.