Congratulations. You made it through 2020!
The year started with apocalyptic wildfires in Australia before taking us into a global pandemic, economic collapse and a disputed US presidential election. It’s time for a well-earned holiday.
But before we get on with the socially-distanced celebrations, there’s the small matter of revisiting the ten predictions we made for wind in our first edition of the year, and marking ourselves. Let’s see what we got wrong and right.
- Hope emerges in Germany: Off to a strong start. We predicted the German government would start to give developers hope after the problems of recent years, and its commitment to make offshore wind the ‘main pillar’ of its energy transition does so. We also anticipated more change at Enercon, which restructured again. One point.
- Chinese auctions squeeze sector: We were less accurate forecasting the fallout of Chinese auctions because, well, there weren’t any. Covid-19 has delayed them until 2021. Our prediction of dwindling appetite for renewables was also off the mark, as the government pledged to go net zero by 2060. There's no way we can claim this one. No points.
- Climate culture wars in US and Australia: There’s been plenty for the politicians to argue about in the US and Australia this year, but they kept arguing about the climate in both too. We also said we would not bet against President Trump securing a second term in the US and, but for Covid-19, we think he would have done. One point.
- But PTC extension boosts US investors: The unexpected extension of the wind production tax credit in December 2019 caught the industry by surprise, and has enabled the development boom to continue in a year that has been one of the most difficult in recent memory. It also helps secure Trump’s legacy as being surprisingly pro-wind. One point.
- UK offshore pushes for 40GW clarity: Pushed for and received. Well, sort of. In October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed the UK to 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, up from a previous target of 2030. But he still faces serious questions over how to achieve low prices and get more local content in UK projects. Many questions remain. One point.
- M&A in floating wind and AI: We have seen mergers and acquisitions this year as companies seek to grow their development platforms while branching into new sectors. In floating wind and artificial intelligence, however, it’s been a trickle rather than a flood: Total bought 80% of the 96MW Erebus project in March to enter the floating wind sector, which is a significant deal, but there’s little of note in AI. Quarter of a point.
- Wind-and-hydrogen goes mainstream: There’s no arguing about this one though. BP, Iberdrola, Ørsted, RWE and Shell are just some of the giant utilities positioning themselves in this sector. The word 'mainstream' is a bit optimistic given that it's still only pilot projects, but it'd be harsh to lose a point for that! One point.
- Corporates shouting about net zero: This one isn’t as simple. We started the year with a big statement by BlackRock about the impact of the climate crisis on investment strategies, and many firms committed to net zero in early 2020. This has slowed since Covid-19 took hold and firms have either (1) gone into survival mode or (2) been shouting about other things. However, we’ve seen no reversal of demand for renewable energy or an end to net zero plans. One point.
- Non-co-located hybrid projects: The last year has been very exciting for energy storage. More companies making more large commitments in more nations, with firms in the US and Australia particularly active. This is undoubtedly opening up more structures for hybrid projects, while the move of huge investors such as Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners into hydro can only mean more opportunities in 2021. One point.
- Momentum picks up in Africa: It’s been a mixed year for wind and other renewables in Africa. The government of South Africa is now looking seriously at new renewables auctions; we’re seeing increasing interest in Morocco; and there’s still great potential in the sub-Saharan region too. Even so, we struggle to make the case that Africa has been a stronger emerging market than Southeast Asia. Only half a point.
This means we put our grand total at 7.75/10. Make of that what you will!
And while it’s easy to complain that some of our predictions were derailed by Covid-19, it’s equally easy to say that we should have predicted that too. The first case was in December.
But seriously, we know that 2020 has been an exceptionally tough year for all of you, just as it has been for us. We’re truly grateful for your support in 2020 and we hope that you all manage to get some time with your loved ones too.
Best wishes from the whole team and see you in 2021.