There has been a renewed sense of purpose around the climate agenda over the past 12 months, and hopes that a deal can be reached at this year’s Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris are high. Of course, whether a deal is made, and whether any agreement is strong enough to achieve its stated aims, is by no means a certainty. The world has had disappointments before, notably at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009.


But what is certain is that wind energy is in a unique position to help countries meet their climate pledges, while providing people with the energy they need. Let’s look at the new realities of the wind industry today.


An inflating industry

Firstly, wind has "grown up". Since 2000, it has been the largest single source of new power across the EU. Last year, it was also the greatest source of new power in the US, while wind is now the third-biggest source of installed power in China, behind coal and hydropower but ahead of gas. Growth rates for installed wind capacity have been a staggering 26% average over the past 18 years, creating an industry that is now worth $100 billion a year.


In Europe alone, wind energy installed more capacity than gas and coal combined in 2014, while 79% of new power installations were in renewable energies. This translates into more than 11,000MW of wind power installed last year, worth an investment of €18.7 billion. In short, wind is no longer an ‘alternative energy’. It is the mainstream.


Clean, cheap and carbon-free

Secondly, people understand that wind power produces clean, carbon-free electricity. But what they perhaps do not realise is that wind is now the cheapest and most efficient way to add new power capacity across vast regions of the world.


The latest studies show that new wind farms in many places around the globe produce power that is cheaper than any other generating technology on a levelised cost of energy basis. Once other factors, such as the health costs associated with dirty fossil fuel generation, are taken into account, wind wins hands down on price, even against coal.


It should be no surprise, then, that some of the world’s largest corporations and best-known brands, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, BMW, General Motors, IKEA and LEGO, to name a few, have turned to wind power for consumption and investment as they make sure they secure the power they need in the responsible way their customers expect.


Continued growth

The wind industry has continued to grow and has, in fact, thrived in a climate of very low gas prices caused by the rise of the shale gas industry – notably in places such as the Texas panhandle – because of continual technological and business innovation. There is no reason to believe it won’t continue to do so in a period of lower oil prices.


It is these new ‘facts on the ground’ that are proving decisive for the continued growth of wind energy across a diverse and growing set of markets, regardless of the unpredictable pace of climate negotiations and national policy regulations.


So to be clear, the wind industry has no need for any special treatment, although it is important – not least for the sake of taxpayers – that we achieve a true level playing field in energy. This includes the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuel and nuclear generation, a recognition of the cost of pollution from traditional power sources, and a free market in energy across countries.

"New wind farms in many places around the globe produce power that is cheaper than any other generating technology on a levelised cost of energy basis."

As an industry, we go into the six months leading up to Paris feeling confident. Keeping up the political momentum is important, because we need to make sure the true value of reducing carbon and stopping dangerous climate change is recognised. Regardless of how successful negotiations are, however, the wind industry is ready to play its part.