Energy Transition

How wind energy is reshaping the future of global power and politics

Wind turbines in dark fog. Wind energy is becoming a strategic tool for states aiming to bolster their energy independence and improve resilience to supply chain shocks.

Wind energy is becoming a strategic tool for states aiming to bolster their energy independence and improve resilience to supply chain shocks. Image: REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Rishabh Mishra
Research Scholar, National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France
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Decarbonizing Energy

  • In 2023, the global wind industry installed 50% more capacity upon the previous year.
  • One of the reasons wind energy is growing rapidly worldwide, and many countries are investing heavily in it, is to bolster energy security.
  • From the US to the EU and China, the world's major blocks are upping their investments in wind energy.

Wind energy is quickly becoming a key global source of energy. In 2023, the global wind industry installed a record 117 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity — a 50% increase from the previous year. And as wind energy’s footprint on the global energy industry grows, so does its political importance. Wind energy is becoming a key player in global politics.

The shift towards renewable energy is changing power dynamics, moving us, albeit gradually, away from reliance on oil-rich nations to those who lead in wind technology. Wind turbines do more than generate power; they forge new alliances around the world.

As investments in wind power grow, new paths in international relations are emerging and economic strategies changing. Nations are using wind energy for more than just environmental benefits; it's becoming a tool for economic and political independence, promising to boost national security as well. This change is elevating wind energy as a major element in global geopolitics.

The evolving global wind energy landscape

The ongoing surge in wind energy installations demonstrates the increasing momentum and political ambition of the renewable energy transition, particularly in response to the energy security concerns accelerated by geopolitical tensions.

Countries across the globe are investing in both onshore and offshore wind capacities. China leads the pack, adding substantial new capacity annually, supported by ambitious governmental renewable energy targets under its Five-Year Plans.

The EU is also accelerating its wind energy deployment, while in the US, federal incentives like the Inflation Reduction Act have bolstered wind energy investments, particularly in offshore wind, which is poised for substantial growth with the expected completion of new large-scale projects​.

Offshore wind is gaining significant attention due to its swift growth, with projections suggesting that more than 380 GW of capacity will be installed worldwide in the next ten years. The EU is at the forefront, particularly through initiatives like the North Sea Energy Cooperation (NSEC), which aims to establish 300 GW of offshore power capacity by 2050.

Meanwhile, the Indo-Pacific region and North America are also making notable advances. This expansion of offshore wind not only demonstrates the technological progress in the field but also emphasizes the growing collaboration between governments and the private sector to address challenges related to infrastructure and investment.

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Wind energy's geopolitical drift

Wind energy's influence on global geopolitics is increasingly evident as nations invest heavily in this renewable resource, signalling a shift from traditional geopolitical energy dynamics centred around fossil fuels. The rapid expansion of wind energy, particularly in leading countries such as China, the US and European nations, is reshaping international relations and strategic alliances​.

China's large-scale investment in wind power, part of its broader renewable energy goals, not only lessens its dependence on imported oil but also positions it as a leader in the global renewable energy sector. This move is strategically significant, potentially reducing the geopolitical leverage of traditional oil-exporting countries​.

In Europe, the push towards wind energy has been accelerated by the need to secure energy independence, especially in light of recent geopolitical tensions and disruptions in fossil fuel supplies from Russia. The EU’s investment in wind power is also part of a broader strategy to decarbonize its energy grid, which further influences its geopolitical stance and relations with both energy-importing and exporting nations.

Furthermore, the shift towards wind energy is promoting new international partnerships, encompassing both academic initiatives like the European Academy of Wind Energy, and political and economic collaborations, such as the NSEC. Countries are increasingly coming together to build supply chains that are less susceptible to geopolitical risks associated with fossil fuels. This shift is part of a larger narrative where energy transition is seen not only as a necessity for climate mitigation but also as a strategic lever in global politics​.

Wind energy is not just transforming how nations generate power; it is also influencing global trade, security and diplomatic relations, heralding an era of "energy diplomacy" where renewable sources play a central role. The geopolitical landscape is thus being redrawn, with renewable energy increasingly at its core, shaping a future where energy supply is more secure, sustainable and equitable.

Wind energy's obstacles to growth

But, despite these dynamics, wind energy does not necessarily face a smooth ascension. Its growth faces several hurdles. Technological advances, especially in offshore wind, necessitate significant R&D investment to enhance affordability and feasibility.

The US Department of Energy is focusing on initiatives to lower costs and advance offshore wind technology. Additionally, integrating wind energy into national grids is challenging due to its intermittent nature, requiring improved grid management and investment in energy storage to ensure reliable supply.

Transporting electricity from remote wind farms to urban centres also demands costly infrastructure. On an international level, the increasing importance of wind energy prompts a reassessment of energy and environmental policies, necessitating cross-border cooperation to tackle supply chain and market issues. These complexities highlight both the challenges and potential of wind energy in contributing to a sustainable and secure energy future.

The transformative role of wind energy in reshaping global geopolitics and economies is unmistakable. As nations increasingly pivot towards sustainable energy solutions, wind energy stands out for its capacity to enhance energy security, drive economic growth and forge new international collaborations.

Challenges such as technological advancements, grid integration and infrastructural development remain, but the strategic benefits of embracing wind energy far outweigh these hurdles.

The global push towards wind energy not only marks a significant shift in how countries approach energy production and consumption but also aligns with broader efforts to achieve environmental sustainability and economic resilience​.

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Energy TransitionGeo-Economics and Politics
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