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A ray of light amid support cuts

Precisely what constitutes an emerging market is a moot point, but by selecting the markets with an installed capacity under 1GW, a good rate of growth and the promise of more to come, we found the top ten worthy of the title.

These key emerging markets - five in Africa, three in Asia Pacific and two in Latin America - have collectively grown from less than 1GW of wind power in 2010 to 5GW today. And together they have the potential to account for as much as 25GW by 2020.

They share a number of common reasons for their recent and projected rapid growth, including good wind resources and strong political - if not always financial - support. But the key driver can be summed up in one word: need. Two out of every three people in sub-Saharan Africa, or more than 600 million people, have no access to electricity. Wind power is well-placed to help provide clean, affordable and renewable energy.

Reporting on emerging markets is a welcome change from looking at countries heading in the opposite direction in terms of wind power. Spain remains the best example of a "submerging" market, new installations falling off the proverbial cliff as financial support was cut to reduce sovereign debt in the wake of the banking crisis. Australia is running a close second in the submerging stakes, a toxic political combination of fossil-fuel vested interests and climate-change denial shouldering out wind in favour of coal. And yet, we see an occasional glimmer of hope when an expected removal of subsidies is merely reduced to a reduction.

While the UK onshore market is facing cuts in support for new projects, the country's offshore wind industry put on its bravest face at RenewableUK's conference in June, in an effort to convince new energy minister Amber Rudd that offshore wind at least is deserving of further support. The developers and manufacturers had a good story to tell: installed capacity in UK waters has surpassed 5GW; costs continue to tumble and are on target to hit £100/MWh by 2020; and offshore projects are generating more electricity than expected, up to 45% of rated capacity against the 38% predicted by the energy ministry.


ScottishPower offshore managing director Jonathan Cole made the point that offshore wind was delivering capacity at a speed other forms of energy generation cannot match. Since the announcement in October 2013 of a guaranteed "strike price" for the 1.6GW Hinckley Point C nuclear power plant, the UK had added 1.6GW of offshore wind. But Hinckley is not planned to start operating until 2023 and few observers think it will meet the deadline. Meanwhile, its inflation-linked strike price - £92/MWh - will continue to rise while wind's costs continue to fall. By 2020 they could well cross over, various studies would indicate.

Rudd made encouraging noises about offshore wind in her address, but the warm-ish words failed to conceal the absence of the hard figures the industry requires. "I cannot yet give the certainty the industry wants, though I recognise the urgency," she said. "I will be making an announcement soon." We're still waiting.

Siemens Wind Power CEO Michael Hannibal perhaps best summed up the industry's response to this. "Let's cross our fingers," he said. He didn't sound particularly optimistic.

Shaun Campbell is features editor of Windpower Monthly

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