Growth slowing at crucial time

Traditionally there is a flurry of activity towards the end of the calendar year, particularly in the US, as developers race to meet various tax relief and support deadlines for new wind projects.

The result is that it is usually not until March the following year before we can be confident of how much wind power has been installed and connected across the globe.

We had better hope that this is the case for 2018, because our country-by-country guide to installed capacity suggests a pretty steep decline in new activity across many markets.

According to the Windicator, a little under 37.5GW was installed in the first 11 months of the year, compared with 39.4GW for the same period in 2017.

That does not sound too serious in itself, though one would have hoped for an increase rather than a reduction in new capacity, but take China out of the equation and the figures look more worrying.

China installed 15.3GW between 1 January and 1 December in 2017, or 38.8% of the world total. For the same period in 2018 the figures are 17.1GW and 45.5%.

The rest of the world’s contribution to additional capacity has fallen from 24.1GW in the first 11 months in 2017 to just 20.4GW for the same period in 2018.

The US is down from 4.3GW to 3.8GW; Germany’s new additions have dropped from 4.6GW to 3.7GW; India’s have slumped from more than 4GW to 2.6GW.

The UK is one of the few countries to show an improvement over 2017’s figures, even if the gain is marginal (52MW), but onshore installations have fallen steeply and will continue to do so without a change in government policy.

There is some encouragement to be found in South America, where Brazil is at roughly at the same level of growth as in the previous year (1.5GW), and Argentina is making steady progress from a very small base.

But both countries are undergoing their share of economic difficulties, and the impact of Brazil’s newly elected president, the extreme right-wing and climate-change denying Jair Bolsonaro, has yet to be felt by the country’s wind industry. It is hard to be optimistic about the outcome, though.

Time to act

The recent climate change summit in San Francisco showed there is no shortage of ideas and ambitions in the efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 2oC in line with the Paris Agreement, but it was short on practical policy, especially with regard to renewable energy.

And the time for talking is surely now over. We need action.

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