European wind energy: the Q1 report
On the eve of next week’s EWEA Copenhagen conference, the European industry reaches the end of 2012’s first quarter in a mixed mood. There are many reasons to be cheerful, but a few to sound a note of caution...
The parlous state of the European economies continues to exert a drag on the wind industry, as subsidies are re-assessed. The planning difficulties in some markets – particularly the UK - calls into question whether the multi-GW targets of onshore wind by 2020 are realistic. Offshore wind remains expensive, and an industry that has still a long way to go to reach maturity. Some of the larger European turbine makers have yet to adjust to the new landscape, and are finding themselves under threat from more prophetic competitors. Grid connections are another headache: plans for a European supergrid aside, expertise in this area is thin, with projects already facing connectivity issues.
So what about reasons to be cheerful?
Well, there are continuous efforts to improve and refine wind energy technology, be it in scale, efficiency or location. Whilst some large manufacturers are having to reduce R&D budgets, there are a number of smaller firms in the supply chain looking at innovative approaches.
And whilst wind projects may have slowed, they have far from dried up with recent additions to the EU in the form of Romania and Latvia expressing a desire to see the technology become a staple part of their energy generation.
The harsh environment of offshore wind will always make it a difficult sector, but with Round 3 in the UK now on the horizon, and some of the issues from Rounds 1 and 2 nothing more than an uncomfortable memory, investors are starting to show a keen interest in the sector.
And yet despite all the talk, this week also saw research released by the Pew Charitable Trust and Bloomberg New Energy Finance that confirms 2011 saw a significant improvement on 2010 for clean energy investment. Something that once again spells out the opportunity and appetite for future investment.
Yes the risk remains, but as the clock keeps ticking and the doors of the conference hall open once again, the desire to succeed is undiminished.