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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK


Wind 'could provide tenth of world electricity'

Wind turbines crowd the brow of a US hill

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

If the world is prepared to unlock the potential of wind power, it could by 2020 be generating a tenth of its electricity requirements from this single source, according to three environmental groups.

The three - Greenpeace International, the European Wind Energy Association and a Danish group, the Forum for Energy and Development - say wind power "has been the energy success story of the last decade of the twentieth century".

In a report, "Wind Force 10", they say using wind to supply 10% of global electricity in 20 years from now would also create 1.7 million jobs and reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by more than 10 billion tonnes.

CO2 is the main greenhouse gas caused by human activities. Annual CO2 emissions at present from the burning of fossil fuels are about 6 billion tonnes.

Huge resource available

The report says it is technically possible over the next two decades to install enough wind generating capacity to produce 10% of global electricity needs, a total greater than the amount of electricity consumed by the entire European Union in 1996.

[ image: Wind power recently arrived in Swaffham, Norfolk, UK]
Wind power recently arrived in Swaffham, Norfolk, UK
It says the total available global wind resource today that is technically recoverable is 53,000 Terawatt hours per year - about four times more than the world's entire electricity consumption in 1998.

Corin Millais of Greenpeace said the signing of the Kyoto Protocol on measures to tackle climate change signalled the beginning of the phase-out of fossil fuels. "Governments must now act to establish the regulatory framework and set legally binding targets for renewables.

"There's no excuse for inaction because wind power is an affordable, feasible, mainstream global energy force that is able to substitute for conventional fuels."

Rapid growth

The report urges governments to establish firm targets, end subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear power, and remove what it calls "inherent electricity sector barriers". Klaus Rave of EWEA said the rate of growth of wind energy in some countries was faster than the expansion of the market in mobile telephones.

The report says wind power was the fastest growing energy source in the world last year, and grew by an average of 40% worldwide between 1994 and 1998. Yet its global contribution to electricity needs is still only 0.15%. In Denmark, wind provides almost 10% of the country's electricity, and the country's target is 50% by 2030.

The cost of Denmark's wind energy fell by two-thirds between 1981 and 1995, and the report says that by 2020 the cost of wind power globally will be competitive with all today's new generating technologies.

Germany, Spain, the USA and many developing countries have also registered significant increases in the amount of electricity generated by wind. But new wind developments continue often to attract opposition from those who say the installations are visually intrusive, or too noisy.

Sir Bernard Ingham, the former press secretary to the UK's ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, once said that wind turbines resembled "lavatory brushes in the sky".

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