2013: The Year That Was


December 19, 2013

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As the end of 2013 draws near, it seems apt to take stock of another year. A year that has seen the wind industry mature, reach new heights, but still largely wrestle with the same problems.

At the start of the year, the market outlook was reasonably positive. The Production Tax Credit in the US had been extended, bringing some respite to turbine manufacturers. A flurry of European onshore deals in the more mature and newer markets, kept some life in the sector in the early spring, and in Asia, Japan announced plans to develop offshore wind. The Chinese market saw signs of some consolidation, as volumes slowed.

From a financing perspective, 2013 saw some of the most significant gains. Greencoat Capital floated on the market, exceeded its target and promptly took a 25% share in Rhyl Flats. European funds continued modest investment in the supply chain and on and offshore projects. Goldman announced plans to invest $500million in Japanese renewables, before taking a stake in DONG later in the year. PensionDanmark, an industry stalwart, made public its intention to invest in US offshore project, Cape Wind. Canadian pension fund NorthWind provided an injection to Gemini, and Marubeni took a stake in Mainstream.

This, of course, excepts the work being done by sovereign wealth funds, like Masdar, quasi autonomous government funds like the UK’s Green Investment Banks and the export credit agencies.

The question is, however, whether this momentum can be maintained. Early indications suggest that with the fluctuating certainty in political support, financiers are holding back on deploying capital, whilst at the same time seeing developers reduce their ambitions, tightening the market still further.

What this means in practice is a number of projects stuck in limbo, unable to reach financial close. The ultimate effect has been to shift the cost of capital downwards – good news for developers, less so for the fund community and investors.

So what will this mean for financiers in 2014? It’s hard to say. The wind market never really fails to surprise, and even with slightly tougher conditions for project lenders in the developed markets, capital has the fluidity to work across national borders relatively unhindered.

The US offshore market may finally get off the ground in 2014, and Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa could be the regions that offer new opportunities.

There are some that predicting that the next 12 months may be a flat spot for the financiers, as the mature markets stagnate and the new markets have yet to reach a critical growth phase.

But let’s not forget that the time taken to close a deal has extended, and whilst financiers might be looking for the next initiative to land, there are still plenty of projects in the pipeline.

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