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Global wind power surges to new record

- By Charlotte Stubben

The Global Wind Energy Council released its Annual Market Update, with a comprehensive snapshot of the global wind industry at the end of 2012, along with a 5-year forecast out to 2017.

Although policy uncertainty in the main OECD markets is a cause for concern, strong markets in China, India and Brazil, as well as in new markets in Latin America, Africa and the rest of Asia will drive global growth during the period.

- Wind power may be variable, but the greatest threat to the continued stable growth of the industry is the variability and unpredictability of the politicians who set the frameworks for the energy sector, said Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General.

- However, all of the fundamentals which have driven wind power to date are still in place: energy security, price stability, local economic development, climate change mitigation and local air and water pollution issues; and wind is now competitive in an increasing number of markets, despite fossil fuel subsidies which last year amounted to an incentive to emit CO2 of about $110/tonne.

Record installations
Record installations in the United States and Europe led global installations of 44.8 GW of new wind power globally in 2012, 10% more than was installed in 2011. Global installed capacity has now reached 282.5 GW, a cumulative increase of almost 19%.

The forecast is for a modest downturn in 2013, however, followed by a recovery in 2014 and beyond; with global capacity growing at an average rate of 13.7% out to 2017, and global capacity nearly doubling to 536 GW.

The # 1 spot
The US regained the #1 spot for global markets in 2012 for the first time since 2009, eking out China by 164 MW. However, the late extension of the US Production Tax Credit on 1 January 2013 means that the US market will drop precipitously in 2013, although with substantial recovery expected in 2014. Europe’s record installations in 2012 are unlikely to be repeated in 2014, as a result of policy uncertainty and backtracking.

- European Governments are driving up the cost of meeting their 2020 renewable energy targets by making policy changes that undermine investor confidence, said Thomas Becker, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association.

- An ambitious and binding 2030 renewable energy target would hugely reduce uncertainty. It would create jobs and exports and boost Europe's world-leading wind industry.

After a year of market consolidation in China, the world’s largest market with over 75 GW of installed capacity, Chinese authorities are calling for 18 GW of installations in 2013; and after a year-long policy hiatus in India, the market is expected to recover and return to growth in 2014. Brazil continues to lead the Latin American market, and may surpass 2 GW of annual installations in 2013; and both Mexico and Canada are expected to grow substantially over the period.

There are also hundreds of MW under construction in South Africa, with another 500 MW expected to come to financial close this year, leading a surge in installations in sub-Saharan Africa which began in Ethiopia in 2012. In Asia, Pakistan, Mongolia, the Philippines and Thailand are all expected to see significant installations in 2013 and beyond.

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