Global wind additions slow to 52.6GW in 2017: GWEC

Expansion driven by China, the US and Germany, but slows in all regions bar Europe amid transition to market-based systems

Worldwide wind capacity additions slowed slightly in 2017 to 52.57GW as China, the US and Germany again powered ahead, and Europe, India and the offshore sector had record years, annual market statistics by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) show.

Last year's additions were down from 54.64GW in 2016, but brought the world’s cumulative wind power capacity to 539.58GW by the end of December.

“The numbers show a maturing industry, in transition to a market-based system, competing successfully with heavily subsidised incumbent technologies,” GWEC secretary general Steve Sawyer said.

“The transition to fully commercial market-based operation has left policy gaps in some countries, and the global 2017 numbers reflect that, as will installations in 2018.”

In Asia, China continued to lead, adding 19.5GW last year. India had a very strong year with 4.15GW in new installations, but will be the "victim" of a policy gap in 2018, GWEC said.

Pakistan (200MW in additions), Thailand (+218MW) and Vietnam (+38MW) all continue to show promise, and there are stirrings in the laggard markets in Japan (+177MW), and particularly in South Korea (+106MW) as a result of policies being enacted by the new government.

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The US had another strong year with 7.1GW in new wind capacity, and a very strong pipeline for the next few years. Corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs) play an increasing role in that market as heavyweights such as Google, Apple or Wal-Mart continue to sign wind and solar PPAs.

Canada (+341MW) and Mexico (+478MW) both had modest years in terms of installations, but a new government in Alberta is breathing life into the Canadian market and the solid policy foundation in Mexico will make it a substantial growth market for the coming decade, GWEC reckons.

Europe had its best year ever with 16.85GW (15.68GW EU only) added, led by a record 6.58GW expansion in Germany, a very strong showing in the UK (+4.27GW), and a resurgence in the French market (+1.69GW). Finland, Belgium, Ireland and Croatia also set new records. Offshore installations of 4.3GW are a harbinger of things to come.

In Latin America, Brazil expanded its wind capacity by 2GW, despite political and economic crises which still will take time to be resolved. Tiny Uruguay (+295MW) completed its build-out and is nearing its 100% renewable electricity target. As a result of auctions in 2016 and 2017, Argentina (+24MW) this year will start with strong installation numbers.

In the Pacific region, only Australia added a modest 245MW.

Despite still impressive additions, the wind energy sector faces steeply falling prices due to a change to auction systems in many countries across the world.

“The dramatic price drops for wind technology has put a big squeeze on the profits up and down the whole supply chain,” Sawyer wrote in an article for Recharge.

“But we’re fulfilling our promise to provide the largest quantity of carbon-free electricity at the lowest price. Smaller profit margins are a small price to pay for leading the energy revolution.”

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