Record installations in the U.S. and Europe helped contribute to 44.8 GW of new wind power globally in 2012, 10% more than what was installed in 2011, according to a new report from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). Global installed capacity has now reached 282.5 GW, a cumulative increase of almost 19%.
However, GWEC's Annual Market Update forecasts a modest downturn this year, followed by a recovery in 2014 and beyond – with global capacity growing at an average rate of 13.7% through 2017 and nearly doubling to 536 GW.
The U.S. regained the No. 1 spot for global wind markets in 2012 for the first time since 2009, installing 13.124 GW and eking out China by 164 MW. But, due to the late extension of the production tax credit in January, GWEC expects the U.S. market to drop precipitously in 2013, although with substantial recovery expected next year.
"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," says Steve Sawyer, GWEC secretary general.
GWEC adds that 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,’ according to 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.’
Although policy uncertainty in the main OECD markets is a cause for concern, GWEC says strong markets in China, India and Brazil, as well as new markets in Latin America, Africa and the rest of Asia, will drive global growth through 2017.
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 this year; and after a year-long policy hiatus in India, GWEC expects the market to recover and return to growth in 2014, the report says.
Brazil continues to lead the Latin American market and may surpass 2 GW of annual installations this year; GWEC expects both Mexico and Canada to grow substantially through 2017.
There are also hundreds of megawatts under construction in South Africa, with another 500 MW expected to come to financial close this year, leading to a surge in installations in sub-Saharan Africa. The report says Asia, Pakistan, Mongolia, the Philippines and Thailand are all expected to see significant installations this year and beyond.
For more information about the GWEC report, click here.