In our first Wind Watch of 2017, we made ten predictions on the stories and trends we expected to shape the sector this year. But were we Nostradamus or Nostradamnfools? Let’s look back, and then give ourselves a score out of ten.
- US wind to defy Trump: Off to a strong start. President Trump hasn’t backed up his anti-wind rhetoric with tough anti-wind policies, and the result is 30GW of wind farms were being built or developed in the third quarter. Even so, the Clean Power Plan has been axed, the Environmental Protection Agency neutered, and the production tax credit threatened too. The US wind sector has enjoyed a strong 12 months – but the biggest battles are yet to come. 1
- China gets tough as crisis deepens: Half a point. We thought China would introduce tough restrictions on wind farms as its financial crisis deepened. It hasn't been as harsh as we said, but we'll claim half a point for correctly saying that the slowdown in China would hit both annual installation and investment figures revealed in 2017. 0.5
- Italy and France to unsettle Europe: Brexit may be a worry for those of us in the UK, but we said it wouldn't be the most unsettling issue for Europe in 2017 – and were right. The threat of the far-right Marine Le Pen becoming president of France was hugely unsettling until she was beaten in the general election in May; and problems with Italian banks and bad debts of over €173bn have lurked in the background without escalating into a full crisis. 1
- Central banks stay cautious: We’ll claim the point – but feel a bit dirty about doing so! Central banks weren't going to suddenly become gung ho in 2017, but they have made the small increases to interest rates we forecast. The US Federal Reserve has raised its rates to 1.25%-1.5%, and the Bank of England did likewise in November by raising its rate from 0.25% to 0.5%. And the European Central Bank is under pressure to do likewise. An easy point. 1
- Consolidation across the supply chain: Yep. We’ve seen plenty of merger and acquisition activity, with the $5bn acquisition of Equis Energy by Global Infrastructure Partners the biggest. Utilities have been in the market for developers as they grow share and manufacturers have brought in specialists. The only thing missing is another major manufacturer deal after Siemens and Gamesa, but Enercon's tie-up with Lagerwey (see news) is intriguing. 1
- UK to soften anti-wind stance: Pat on the back time. We expected the UK government’s hostile attitude to onshore wind to soften under new energy secretary Greg Clark and, in recent months, we have seen his fellow ministers talking about how to increase support for onshore wind. We also said that the falling cost of offshore wind would bolster support for wind generally, which has come to pass. 1
- Germany auction upheaval: We said Germany’s move to competitive tenders would have a bigger impact on wind than its September election and we were right, although the fallout from the latter is still ongoing. Its government is capping annual onshore wind installations at 2.8GW a year, which is way down from a 4.2GW average for the last five years, and its preference for citizen-led projects in the 2017 tenders has raised big concerns for manufacturers. 1
- Offshore cost cuts slow: Ah! Let’s gloss over this one, shall we? No, we'll front up. We thought the sector would take time to adjust to record-low strike prices agreed in tenders in 2016 – but we didn't reckon with the scale of ambition of project developers and manufacturers. The result was the first zero-subsidy offshore projects that won backing in Germany’s first offshore auction, and huge falls in the UK too. A prediction we’re happy to get wrong. 0
- Wind awakens to large solar: Half a point. We said we expected more wind developers and investors to diversify into the utility-scale solar sector. It hasn’t played out exactly like this, but we are seeing more utilities and investors that have interests in both looking to put more focus on large solar at the expense of wind. Get set for a battle royale between the two in the coming years. 0.5
- Africa leads emerging markets: We said the 310MW Lake Turkana in Kenya would focus attention on deals in Africa, but we underestimated the challenge of building its transmission lines. We will claim half a point as we are seeing developers pursue schemes across the continent. However, it is a stretch to call Africa the leading emerging market given exciting projects in countries in Latin America, southeast Asia and even further afield. 0.5
By that reckoning we give ourselves 7.5/10. A decent score and one we’ll look to improve on when we make predictions for 2018, in our first full Wind Watch of 2018 on 5th January.