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Windicator: Wind passes 300GW milestone despite slower growth

WORLDWIDE: World wind capacity increased by 13% in 2013 -- less than in 2012, when it rose by 22%. Additions in megawatts were also down on 2012, from 49.2GW in 2012 to 33.1GW last year.

But if turbines that are not grid-connected in China were included, both figures would be very similar to last year.

World wind-energy capacity now comfortably exceeds 300GW, and just over a third of the total is located in Europe. The total amount of new capacity installed in Europe last year was 11.5GW, down from the 13.8GW installed in 2012.

Although progress slowed in Europe last year, the strongest performer in terms of megawatts added, after a slow 2012, was Germany, with 2.98GW, a 9% increase. The strongest performer in percentage terms among those with over 5GW was the UK, which added 2.06GW, a 24% rise. Further down the table, very strong performances were delivered by Poland, which added 36%, and Turkey, which added 39%.

After a long period of sluggish activity, there were signs of growth in the Middle East and Africa, particularly Morocco, Iran and Ethiopia. Although much of the African continent has fairly low wind speeds, there are attractive locations, such as the mountainous regions of Kenya, where a 300MW wind project is close to financial close.

The star performer in the Asia-Pacific region last year was, once again, China, while India, which has been a strong performer in previous years, added less than 2GW.

Progress in the North American continent last year was modest, although the American Wind Energy Association says 12GW of plant is under construction. The US Department of Energy suggests that about 6GW will be commissioned in 2014. The long-awaited surge of activity in South America now seems to be taking off, with nearly 1GW installed — if not grid-connected — in Brazil.

Firmly competitive

Several authorities suggest the amount of capacity that will be added in 2014 will exceed the 2013 figure. The competitive position of wind has improved during the year, especially as construction costs for two new nuclear power stations - one in the US, the other in the UK - became clear. On a level playing field, there is no longer any doubt that onshore wind is cheaper than nuclear. No renewable energy technologies - with the possible exception of biomass in certain locations - can compete with wind, whose principal competitor is natural gas. This is particularly true in the US, thanks to the availability of shale gas, but it became increasingly evident during the year that a shale-gas revolution in Europe and elsewhere was unlikely to have a big effect on gas prices. Although there are undoubtedly shale-gas resources outside the US, their exploitation is unlikely to have a major impact on gas prices.

One development that could strongly affect the growth of renewable energy in Europe is future policy within the European Union. The European Commission has tabled climate and energy goals for 2030, as a basis for "a competitive, secure and low-carbon EU economy". The commission has proposed a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below the 1990 level, an EU-wide binding target for renewable energy of at least 27%, renewed ambitions for energy efficiency policies, a new governance system and a set of new indicators to ensure a competitive and secure energy system. There has been a mixed reaction to the proposals, with some arguing they are too weak, others the reverse. They were to be debated at a Council of Ministers meeting in late March.

Offshore

Future energy policy in the EU and elsewhere will have a crucial bearing on the continuing development of offshore wind. The UK - the current world leader - recently reiterated plans to retain that lead and develop up to 15GW of wind by 2020 and 41GW by 2030. However, the long-term revision to the UK electricity market structure is creating some uncertainty, and the 2020 figure is now looking more doubtful. German offshore developments, which had been moving forward slowly, accelerated during 2013, and there are some signs that costs are stabilising. The industry is confident that generation costs will come down, but continuing development is a prerequisite.

A major milestone on the path to construction of the first offshore wind farm in the US was reached in December, when Siemens obtained an agreement with Cape Wind to provide the wind turbines. Construction is likely to commence this year.

The quarterly Windicator is an indicator of the state of play. Changes in the table overleaf can be corrections received rather than additions or subtractions. We welcome corrections.


Sign of growth to come in the US

Turbine contracts by country, 2013 (MW)


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