Question of the Week: 2014 a good year for wind?

As we near the end of the year, Windpower Monthly asked experts whether they thought 2014 was a vintage year for wind power, or one best forgotten.

New, larger turbines were put into action in 2014
New, larger turbines were put into action in 2014

Question: Has 2014 been a good year for the wind industry?

Paul Coffey, chief operating officer, RWE Innogy

In general, it was a good year for both onshore and offshore in terms of deployment, generation and technological development. Manufacturers and operating companies continue to work hard on further improving the efficiency of construction of projects as well as their performance.

One promising project, under the management of the Carbon Trust's Offshore Wind Accelerator, includes a one year demonstration project to validate the vibratory driving of wind turbine monopile foundations. This will reduce costs, save time and bring wind energy closer to the market. Also within the onshore industry, the development of more efficient turbines up to 8MW is helping to improve performance. This will lead to a cost reduction per MWh, and more competitive electricity production.

On the other hand there were some developments that are a concern for the industry, in particular regulatory uncertainty in some countries. One example is the UK, where the planning approval process for onshore wind has become unpredictable because of political intervention. This development unfortunately has a negative impact upon the industry and on investment into the renewable energies.

Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer, European Wind Energy Association

From a political perspective, 2014 has been a pivotal year for the wind industry and at times a mixed bag of setbacks and victories.

In April, the European Commission outlined a set of ambiguous state aid guidelines. While these guidelines will be difficult for investors and national authorities to interpret, they are at least open to interpretation and therefore, provide member states with the flexibility when implementing them nationally to determine the makeup of their support for renewable energy.

The proposals push for market integration above stability, encouraging premiums allocated through tenders to replace feed-in tariffs and "technology neutrality". This does not distinguish between the maturity of technologies like onshore and offshore wind energy.

In terms of turbine installations, we again see a concentration of investments in the key markets of Germany, the UK, Poland and Sweden. These markets will likely represent over half of all installations in Europe in 2014.

The offshore industry remained the fastest growing part of the power generation sector in Europe in 2014. But to ensure healthy growth in the latter part of the decade, the industry must be given longer-term visibility on the regulatory side.

A disappointing 2030 target of just 27% was set for renewables, which means clear national action plans and strong governance is now needed from member states to ensure the EU-wide target is more than met within the timeframe.

But the year ended on a positive note. New European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker showed his commitment to decarbonisation by pledging to make Europe a world leader in renewables, while also creating a new role for a vice president commissioner for energy union.

Nicolas Navas, investment principal, Actis

2014 has been a fantastic year for wind in emerging markets. We see day by day foundations being laid down for many markets such as India, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and South Africa where major players have been positioning themselves for some years.

It is our view that these markets are set for a major increase in installed capacity as there is the objective in these markets to diversify the energy mix. Despite the fact that the price for fossil fuels is dropping, all the fundamentals are there for governments to take a step towards a more balanced installed capacity mix.

Renewables in the energy mix allows countries with high growth in energy demand to substantially mitigate the volatility of the cost of its power generation as oil prices (and other thermal fuel sources) will continue to experience price fluctuations in the short term. For those reasons we believe that 2014 was a great year which will spearhead deployment of installed capacity in the coming years in emerging markets.

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