In our first edition of the year we made 10 predictions on the trends we expected to shape activity in wind in 2015. So, how did we do?
(1) No favours from the world economy: It did not take a genius to predict that firms in the wind sector would continue to face tough economic headwinds in 2015. The risk of Greece exiting the euro hung over Europe for most of 2015, while the slowdown in China is set to affect global installation figures over the next few years.
(2) Consolidation among manufacturers: Bullseye! In October, Nordex announced the €785m acquisition of Acciona’s wind arm. Meanwhile, we also saw the completion of GE’s €12.4bn takeover of Alstom’s energy assets; and Areva and Gamesa officially set up 50:50 offshore wind joint venture Adwen. This will carry on in 2016.
(3) Financial inventiveness: Developers will always have to be creative to fund projects, and the speed with which Highland Group reached financial close on the 400MW Veja Mate offshore wind farm is a great example. We have also seen institutions such as Aviva get more comfortable with investing in wind.
(4) Europe continues to go slow: Europe has indeed continued to see slow and steady growth in wind, and we have seen a rise in activity in the secondary market. Even the boom in the German market, where 9GW has been built onshore in the last two years, is a short-term result of cuts to changes to feed-in tariffs from 2017.
(5) UK election uncertainty: We got this one right, as the only certainty for UK wind since the Conservatives won the election in May is that subsidies will be cuts. Our prediction that UK offshore would be caught in the crossfire is also looking prescient since UK energy secretary Amber Rudd has only offered conditional support.
(6) Firms seek storage to silence critics: We said wind farm developers and investors would look to bring storage technology into schemes to counter concerns about the reliability of wind farms, and many firms are seeking to do so. We have also seen some small projects. However, we are yet to see any take the plunge in a big way, so we cannot claim this was 100% spot on.
(7) Offshore breakthrough outside Europe: Our prediction that the first offshore project outside of Europe would go live was too ambitious, but we could yet see the first turbines at Deepwater Wind’s 30MW Block Island in US waters produce energy next year.
(8) Cuts in the USA: When the US wind Production Tax Credit lapsed in 2012 it led to the loss of 30,000 jobs in the industry in the US, and so when the PTC expired at the end of 2014 we expected similar job cuts this year. Thankfully, we have not seen that level of carnage. This is one prediction we are happy to be wrong on, and the expected extension of the PTC should allay further worries.
(9) Asian manufacturers target world: Half right! Privately-owned Chinese firms such as Envision and Ming Yang have continued expanding overseas, and others could follow suit as the Chinese economy slows. However, pro-wind policies in India means the likes of Suzlon are looking to get stronger in their home market.
(10) Emergence of Africa and Middle East: And again, we were half right. The African wind market has taken off, from Morocco and Egypt in the north to Ghana, Kenya and Senegal in the sub-Saharan region. But continued low oil prices have forced Middle Eastern nations to focus on fossil fuels rather than renewables.
And the result? In our view, it looks like a 7/10. We’ll see if we can beat this when we give our predictions for 2016 in the first Wind Watch of the new year, on 4 January.
Four Republican congressmen have called for a halt to US offshore wind projects because of unsubstantiated claims blaming the industry for whale deaths. But this obvious misinformation can still be a threat for the growth of the industry.