Global wind energy installations slump to five-year low

by ClickGreen staff. Published Wed 19 Mar 2014 16:12
2014 promises to be a better year for wind energy than 2013
2014 promises to be a better year for wind energy than 2013

Asia has overtaken Europe and the US by installing more new wind energy capacity in 2013 but the total number of new projects dipped last year, according to a new research report.

Preliminary estimates of newly installed worldwide wind power capacity in 2013 found that 35,572 MW of clean wind power was commissioned, which equates to 318,576 MW of global capacity to date.

According to the study carried out by EurObserv’ER, the Asian market appropriated just over 1 out of every 2 MW of installed capacity across the globe in 2013, giving it a market share of 51.2%

Europe clung on to the number two slot for installations with just over 1 out of every 3 MW installed – a 34.1 percent market share.

This contrasts with North America which took a nosedive because of a slump in installations, leaving it with less than 10 percent (9.3%) of the 2013 global market.

The other regions of the world trailing behind these three major zones mustered a 5.3% market share.

The Asian and European share of global capacity inched closer together, yet Europe still has the upper hand with a 38.3% share as opposed to Asia’s 36.4% share.

North America (including Mexico) has been outpaced in the three-horse race as it now only accounts for 22.3% of global wind power capacity.

For the first time since wind turbines entered the industrial era, its market registered a significant drop in installations of about 10 GW.

Its 2013 performance (35.6 GW) is even lower than that of 2009 and reflects the lack of continuity if not reversal of public renewable electricity promotion policies by a number of countries.

The decline of the global wind energy market in 2013 is largely attributed to the US market collapse that started at the beginning of the year.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports that 1,084 MW of capacity was installed in 2013, compared to 13,078 MW in 2012.

The reason for the difference is the eleventh-hour extension of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) that was due to expire on December 31, 2012. The American Congress left it until January 2, 2013, to extend the PTC for another year.

The mechanism awards an incentive of 0.023 USD per kilowatt-hour for the first ten years of production. Because there were no financial guarantees, investors took a break from setting up new wind energy projects.

Bearing in mind the time it takes to organise new project applications, it was only in the last quarter of 2013 that the first projects started to come out of the ground.

While 2013 could be described as a disaster, 2014 is bound to be much better, as the American legislator’s 2012 tax law known as the “American Taxpayer Relief Act” (adopted in January 2013) added an important provision that makes all the plants under construction before January 1, 2014, eligible for PTC.

The AWEA identified 12,300 MW of wind power capacity under construction in some 20 American states as of December 31, 2013.

Fortunately, the 2013 global wind energy market was able to count on the resilience of the Chinese market, that according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), surged by 24.2%, rising from 12,960 MW in 2012 to 16,100 MW in 2013, taking capacity to date to 91,424 MW.

However, the China National Renewable Energy Centre reckons that 75,480 MW of capacity was actually connected to the grid, which means that installed capacity awaiting connection dropped below the 20% threshold.

The Chinese market appears to be showing signs of strength, boosted by the Government’s new commitment to 200 GW of wind turbines by 2020.

In 2013, the national components of the European market were much more volatile and more concentrated than of recent years, which point to a level of fragility.

The reason for this concentration is that in 2013 the two main European markets, Germany and the UK, accounted for more than half of the installed capacity in the EU.

The report says this trend gives cause for concern, because it is at odds with that of the past few years that tended to indicate wind power capacity build-up across a growing number of countries. This level of concentration has not been seen since 2007, when the German, Spanish and Danish markets were the sole drivers of European growth.

The momentum in Germany and the UK differ. A new installation record was set in Germany, while the UK market, which is still offshore-driven, looks to be down on its 2012 level. They are the only two countries to have exceeded the one gigawatt threshold for newly installed capacity, because Spain and Italy which shared this distinction in 2012, stalled badly in 2013.

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