European wind spending down 18% in 2019

The wind power sector spent €51.8 billion in Europe in 2019, down by nearly a fifth from a record year in 2018, according to industry body WindEurope.

Spain spent most both in terms of capacity financed and amount invested last year
Spain spent most both in terms of capacity financed and amount invested last year

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More than 35% of the total was spent on financing 11.7GW of new assets — down from a record 16.7GW financed last year, and the lowest spending on new projects since 2013.

Spending on refinancing and acquisitions was down from 2018 levels, according to WindEurope’s latest Financing and Investment Trends report, while capital markets spending — public market transactions and raising private equity — rose.

Despite the overall spending reduction, more was invested in wind than any other energy source in the European power sector last year, the industry body stated.

Wind also accounted for about two-thirds of renewable energy investments in new utility-scale capacity.

WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said if it were not for a dramatic fall in investments in Germany, 2019 could have seen record spending levels in Europe.

The industry body also noted spending levels in 2019 were similar to those in 2016 and 2017, before a sharp increase in 2018.

Total wind energy investments in Europe, 2010-2019

Meanwhile, financing in offshore wind fell by 40% to €6 billion, but WindEurope argued this was due to longer project cycles rather than a decreasing interest in the technology.

Geographic spread

Against a backdrop of soaring installation figures, Spain spent the most both in terms of capacity financed and amount invested.

In total, 28 onshore projects reached a final investment decision (FID) with €2.8 billion spent on 2.8GW of onshore capacity — an average outlay of €1 million/MW.

Spain was followed by the UK with €2.7 billion for 700MW, and France recorded €2.7 billion for 700MW, including the country’s first offshore wind project.

Meanwhile, Germany was only the 13th most popular market for new asset financing last year, with just €300 million spent on new projects. Investors have been deterred by complex permitting rules.

New asset financing in wind energy per country in 2019

The geographic spread of investments increased again last year, with projects reaching a financial investment decision in 25 countries, compared to just 16 in 2016.

Secondary markets

As in 2018, spending in the secondary market — refinancing, project and company acquisitions, and capital markets — outpaced new asset financing. 

However, the €10.2 billion spent on refinancing was down 8.1% year on year. It was also 7.4% lower in project acquisitions and fell 82% in company acquisitions.  

Spending in capital markets rose 40% to €42 billion.

Sector maturity and technological competitiveness continued to attract more investors as equity partners in projects, particularly from the financial services sector, WindEurope explained.

As investors become more confident about wind power, they can calculate risk more accurately and invest earlier in projects.

Wind power attracted a more diversified pool of investors, including banks, institutional lenders and export credit agencies, changing the way that projects are funded, WindEurope stated.

Number of corporate renewable PPAs by country per year

This was partly reflected in a record 108 corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed for renewables, up from 61 in 2018.

Deals were signed for around 1.7GW of wind projects in 2019, down from just over 1.9GW the previous year.

Banks are particularly crucial for wind energy financing, WindEurope noted, as non-recourse debt not visible on companies’ balance sheets provided the majority (58%) of all capital raised for new projects.

Coronavirus

In normal circumstances, many conditions are in place for a positive investment outlook, WindEurope noted.

Low interest rates and a number of lenders are increasingly comfortable investing in wind power.

However, it warned that the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic will inevitably create short-term uncertainty and prompt lenders to divert their attention to managing liquidity rather than lending capital for wind farm financing.

The depth of the economic fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic will determine how quickly markets return to some sort of normality.

"We have yet to see the scale of Covid-19’s impact on wind energy investments," said Dickson.

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