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The Great Energy Transition Gathers Momentum–(Or Not!)

February 14, 2018

By Paul Homewood


The Global Wind Energy Council, the international trade association for the wind power industry, is busy hyping the interests of its members again:


China slows a bit, but Europe and India take up the slack

Brussels, 14 February 2018. The Global Wind Energy Council released its annual market statistics today. The 2017 market remained above 50 GW, with Europe, India and the offshore sector having record years. Chinese installations were down slightly– ‘only’ 19.5 GW – but the rest of the world made up for most of that. Total installations in 2017 were 52,573 MW, bringing the global total to 539,581 MW.

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

“Wind is the most competitively priced technology in many if not most markets; and the emergence of wind/solar hybrids, more sophisticated grid management and increasingly affordable storage begin to paint a picture of what a fully commercial fossil-free power sector will look like.”

Cratering prices for both onshore and offshore wind continue to surprise. Markets in such diverse locations as Morocco, India, Mexico and Canada range in the area of $US 0.03/kWh, with a recent Mexican tender coming in with prices below $US 0.02. Meanwhile, offshore wind had its first ‘subsidy-free’ tender in Germany this year, with tenders for more than 1 GW of new offshore capacity receiving no more than the wholesale price of electricity.

In Asia, China continues to lead. India had a very strong year, but will be the ‘victim’ of a policy gap in 2018. Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam all continue to show promise, and there are stirrings in the laggard markets in Japan, and particularly in South Korea as a result of policies being enacted by the new government.

Europe had its best year ever, led by more than 6 GW in Germany, a very strong showing in the UK, and a resurgence in the French market. Finland, Belgium, Ireland and Croatia also set new records. Offshore installations of more than 3,000 MW are a harbinger of things to come.

The US had another strong year with 7.1 GW, and a very strong pipeline for the next few years. Direct corporate purchase of renewables plays an increasing role in that market, as the litany of household brand names (Google, Apple, Nike, Facebook, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, etc) signing wind and solar PPAs continues to grow. Canada and Mexico 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.

In Latin America, Brazil chalked up more than 2 GW, despite political and economic crises which are not yet fully resolved. Uruguay completed its build-out and is nearing the 100% renewable energy target in the power sector. The results of 2016 and 2017’s auctions in Argentina will start to result in strong installation numbers in 2018 and beyond.

There was a lot of activity in Africa and the Middle East, but the only completed projects were in South Africa, where 621 MW of new capacity was added to the grid. Big projects in Kenya and Morocco are awaiting grid connection this year.

The Pacific region remains quiet, and although a lot of new contracts were signed in 2017. Australia, the only active market in the region, put up a modest 245 MW.

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


As is always the case with renewable lobbyists, when you actually examine the numbers, you end up being wildly underimpressed!


This is the headline graph, showing that new wind capacity additions has now fallen for two years running.( BTW, I do love the way they show MW, rather than GW. After all, 52,573 MW sounds much more impressive than 52.5 GW!)

BP data showed that wind power produced 959 Twh globally in 2016, from a capacity of 469 GW, giving a load factor of 23%.

Based on this, the capacity added last year will generate 106 Twh, equivalent to just 0.4% of 2016’s global electricity output of 24816 Twh.

Given that global demand for electricity has been rising by about 500 Twh a year recently, wind’s contribution is little more than a spit in the ocean.


If we look at the regional details, the following stand out:

EU – 16 GW

US – 7 GW

China  – 19 GW

India – 4 GW


In the EU, Germany and the UK account for 7 and 4 GW respectively, which would not been commissioned without huge subsidies.

In the US as well, generous subsidies are also doled out.


As for China, the additional capacity of 19 GW would produce 30 Twh, based on a current load factor of 18%. As China’s total electricity generation was 6142 Twh in 2016, the extra wind power would only supply 0.5%.

Provisional figures show that China’s generation grew by 6.6% last year, to 6547 Twh. In other words, wind power in China rose from 3.9% of total generation in 2016, to 4.1% last year.

That should save the world!

What about India?

In 2016, wind accounted for 3.2% of electricity output. The extra capacity added in 2017 would push this figure up to 3.6%, assuming no increase in overall electricity generation.


You would be forgiven for not realising any of this from reading the GWEC propaganda.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    February 14, 2018 6:57 pm

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

    [My bold]

    Someone’s living on a different planet.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 14, 2018 8:07 pm

      As long as they don’t have to fund the back-up they’re winning. If contracts were designed such that a given output power was required per wind-farm (so that back up was priced in) they wouldn’t stand a chance of competing.

      • John Palmer permalink
        February 14, 2018 9:32 pm


    • dave permalink
      February 15, 2018 9:50 am

      “…heavily subsidized incumbent technonolgies…”

      According to the Dictionary, a subsidy is a sum of MONEY given by a government to something they favour. The tedious misuse of the word to refer to the – supposed – favouritism itself is babyish.

      Looked at coolly, the effect of such propaganda is to lull the populace into believing that emissions of CO2 are actually ceasing. Mentally, there is a whole lost generation in this country, pouring out of school. There was a ludicrous program last night, ostensibly about young nudists and the distaste their parents have for their activity. An 18-year old school-girl had been on a mass, nudist bike ride. She said earnestly that her parents did not understand the important context. It was a political and social protest. What were they against? “CO2 emissions!”

      • dave permalink
        February 15, 2018 9:51 am


        Has a certain something to it.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      February 15, 2018 12:39 am

      That’s 6 years old. Do you have an update?
      27-year-old Kamaoa Wind Farm = installed about 1985

      • markl permalink
        February 15, 2018 1:16 am

        The wind farm was shut down in 2006 and dismantled over the years as far as I know….. nothing to update. I saw it in 2008 and it was a sore sight. They built another farm about 1 1/5 miles away with newer equipment.

  2. Athelstan permalink
    February 14, 2018 7:35 pm

    “Given that global demand for electricity has been rising by about 500 Twh a year recently, wind’s contribution is little more than a spit in the ocean.”

    A witheringly accurate precis and therein a put down of some quite considerable emphasis.

    Nice analysis PH, as you say – “Or Not!”

    Though, you’ll never hear a thing about the miserable effort – wind = doesn’t work, the reality of the bloviation and hot air coming out of the whirlygig lobby – from the bbc.

    The truth is too howible to contemplate.

    Gawd, and everyone knows it, BUT still we ‘the taxpayer;’ are dragged along -forced to pay for a ‘technology’ which the Victorians binned when they discovered how much more efficient were steam driven engines (big sigh). We are regressing, not moving forwards and smart phones and apps don’t cut it.

    This is the wider problem, no one is listening (Westminster and beyond to the whole UK administration), or, able (think Harrabin, Ms Ambrose) nor willing (think the corporate media blob), nor publicize it (think UK and the world;s meejah) to discuss the evident reality, that, wind for all the intensive investment doesn’t add up to even, doodly squat and probably < doodly squat.

  3. February 14, 2018 7:43 pm

    ‘what a fully commercial fossil-free power sector will look like’

    It would look a place with unreliable wind turbines outnumbering lampposts.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 14, 2018 8:12 pm

      Thing is, Oldbrew, nobody has the nerve to build a living experimental community living solely on ruinables and off-grid (unless they owned and managed their own back-up) – and populated by bloody snowflakes and greens. They wouldn’t last a Winter.

      • dave permalink
        February 15, 2018 9:56 am

        There used to be an outdoorsy, subsidized, techno-center, in Wales which was run on wind and solar. I took my children there thirty years ago, and it was quite good fun. I looked the name up recently and found it had closed completely.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 15, 2018 1:42 pm

        i thought there was an island off Denmark that was trying the no grid method with electric cars to be part of it by using the batteries for storage. Is it possible it didn’t work out too well or it would be all over the Guardian and BBC?

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      February 14, 2018 9:45 pm

      And, Oldbrew, much higher cost of electricity. That is the main reason they can claim to be cheaper by disrupting the economics of the old way. Thus wind in Australia is supplying at about 3 times the wholesale cost that used to prevail when coal fired was king. When you add in the subsidy (which goes onto the retail price) then renewables cost about 5 times that of the old coal fired power (or 4 times that from a modern HELE station).

    • February 15, 2018 6:50 am

      It will be mainly reliant on hydro.

      • February 15, 2018 10:34 am

        So praying for rain as well as wind and sun.

  4. Green Sand permalink
    February 14, 2018 10:29 pm

    On a subject as profound and important it would be remiss not to include ‘The Oracle’s’ latest contribution:-

    ‘Wind farms make up all EU’s net power growth’

    “The boom in wind farms across the European Union has single-handedly driven the net growth in power generating capacity as fossil fuel plants shut faster than they are built.

    The steady shutdown of polluting coal plants across the UK and the rest of EU outstripped the number being built by more than four times over.

    New gas plants only narrowly replaced the number of older gas generation units being shut down.

    By contrast the number of new wind turbines mushrooming across the EU increased by 20pc from the previous year to set new records in Germany, the UK and France.

    As a result wind power is now Europe’s second largest source of electricity, behind gas-fired power plants, after it made up almost a fifth of all electricity produced across the block last year.

    In total the strong rollout of onshore and offshore turbines added a record 15.6GW of new energy capacity last year, according to a report from Wind Europe……

    According to who? Enough, I will not soil this site any further….

    • Athelstan permalink
      February 15, 2018 1:11 am

      “the Oracle”


    • February 15, 2018 6:53 am

      Yes, Silly Jilly in full propaganda mode – it’s that degree in Meejah Studies, don’tcha know.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 15, 2018 1:44 pm

        And she would not mention that is it government interference making fossil fuel plants uneconomic would she?

  5. BLACK PEARL permalink
    February 14, 2018 11:00 pm

    Were hyping Up wind power on Sky News tonight with two advocates, after discussing record American oil production and exports. Totally one sided debate as usual from. “Half the cost it used to be” Of coarse they never mention the inefficiencies & real costs to the consumer.
    Probably all part of this ‘push’ you mention Paul.
    Funny how they get a spot on Sky … do you think they pay for it ?

  6. Hivemind permalink
    February 14, 2018 11:25 pm

    “…wind’s contribution is little more than a spit in the ocean.”

    I prefer the always evocative phrase: “Pissing into the wind.”

  7. Curious George permalink
    February 14, 2018 11:42 pm

    They carefully select what to publish, in the best traditions of Dr. Joseph Goebbels. A new installed capacity. Not a capacity taken out of commission. And, God forbid, not actual production data – always megawatts, never megawatt-hours.

    • February 15, 2018 11:21 am

      How do I calculate the power consumption of my fridge in terms of “Number of homes serviced”?

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        February 15, 2018 11:51 am

        “Number of homes serviced” is a nice variable metric: it grows with the passage of time and rising cost of electricity, as our consumption falls in response to the price rises. It also looks extremely impressive in countries where electricity consumption is very limited. Perhaps there ought to be a true international standard, such as “Gore mansions”. They will need to think of something else before we’re all forced into running EVs anyway, because the metric will depreciate alarmingly.

      • Curious George permalink
        February 15, 2018 4:18 pm

        Was Grenfell Tower one home?

  8. John F. Hultquist permalink
    February 15, 2018 1:10 am

    Enterprises built with subsidies seem to follow a path.
    The original owners harvest the subsidy and maybe make some money.
    As the project ages and the costs of running and maintaining the project increase – and the subsidy is gone – the owners sell. There may be moneys available to another group.
    The new owner “milks” the project while failing to invest in upkeep. Parts may be sold as used or scrap. Maybe the place is sold again. Eventually all that is left is scrap and land.
    Sometimes, if on leased land, the last owner just disappears.

    About 25 miles from us is a Darrieus style wind turbine. It was erected about 30 years ago and the company got into various troubles (financial) and vanished before any electricity was produced.
    The apparatus did not vanish from the landscape.
    Now a modern (5 years old) wind project is near this old (single) tower. It is an interesting juxtaposition, the old and new, and suggests the future.
    Below are Google Earth coordinates, on the local county road.
    47.101053, -120.751259
    Use ‘Street View’ and look east. [Modern towers are more recent than the Street View image.] A modern tower is 150 m. to the NW. The main project is 2.5 miles NE.

  9. Chris Treise permalink
    February 15, 2018 11:53 am

    Anyone know the rate of “drop-off”||? Cornwalls old turbines seem to be at a standstill most of the time?

  10. February 15, 2018 12:24 pm

    “In the US as well, generous subsidies are also doled out.”

    I predict that may come to an abrupt halt. You could say it will be “Trumped.”

  11. Gerry, England permalink
    February 15, 2018 1:49 pm

    And the ability of the UK to see sense – should any politicians possessing this rare commodity emerge – and dump this could be scuppered by the EU just as I have always feared. The EU want commitment to the Paris Agreement to be part of any future trade deals. Unless there is a stress clause in the deal, then failure to continue the green crap causes the trade deal to fail. Of course, this would not be an issue if we left the EU via the Efta/EEA route but May has ruled this out.

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