No industry can afford to stand still — and nobody could accuse those in wind of slacking in 2015. Here is our month-by-month guide to the biggest stories of the year:
January: The year started with two big corporate takeovers. US solar giant SunEdison moved into wind by completing the $2.4bn acquisition of First Wind; and India’s Suzlon announced a sale of German subsidiary Senvion for €1bn to Centerbridge Partners just weeks after calling “rumours” of a deal “baseless and false”.
February: Industry criticism of the model of US listed renewables yieldcos got louder in February when Francesco Starace, chief executive of Italian utility Enel, said it was like creating a “monster that you have to feed”. The utility did not list its US yieldco, and this was a good decision as the most aggressive US yieldcos saw share prices drop sharpafter summer.
March: The offshore turbine market got a lot more crowded in 2015, with MHI Vestas and Siemens going head-to-head in Europe — and, in March, a new player entered the battle. Spain’s Gamesa and France’s Areva signed definitive agreements to form their 50:50 joint venture Adwen, which is eyeing a 20% share of Europe’s offshore turbine market by 2020.
April: The Spanish government has paralysed the wind sector with destructive cuts but, in April, it looked like it wanted to change tack. The Ministry of Industry, Energy & Tourism announced a 500MW wind auction that is scheduled for next month. However, this is well below what the country needs to meet 2020 targets and will not erase the memories of firms hurt by Spain’s policies before.
May: We were unashamedly focused on the UK in May as the Conservative Party won a slim majority after five years in coalition with the pro-renewables Liberal Democrats. Now, freed from the moderating voice of the Lib Dems, the Conservatives have made severe cuts to subsidies for onshore wind, and thrown the UK’s offshore wind sector into doubt.
June: Lord Laidlaw’s Highland Group Holdings reached the €1.9bn financial close on the 400MW offshore wind farm Veja Mate. This was all the more impressive given that he had to put together a hugely-complicated project in nine months, rather than the usual two years, and with no track record in the offshore wind sector.
July: SunEdison continued its march into wind with a $2bn acquisition of a 930MW US portfolio from Invenergy. This followed buyouts in the first half of 2015 including India’s Continuum Wind for $650m, Latin American Power for $700m, and a 16% stake in Brazil’s Renova. However, it has since reined in growth in wind by terminating a series of deals.
August: There were more warnings about listed US renewables yieldcos as David Crane, chief executive of NRG Energy, said the market was “saturated” and that these yieldcos were paying too much for assets. Meanwhile, Dong Energy chief executive Henrik Poulsen said it was considering selling its North Sea oil and gas assets to focus on offshore wind.
September: Wind lost one of its main political bogeymen as Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott as prime minister of Australia. Abbott has not been missed, after leading a series of destructive cuts to subsidies and green targets that turned Australia from a world leader in renewables into a laughing stock. Turnbull has since lifted a ban on investing in wind.
October: German manufacturer Nordex surprised the market in October by announcing a €785m acquisition of the wind arm of Spain’s Acciona. The deal is subject to approval from competition authorities and due to complete in the next six months. It should give Nordex more of a presence in the fast-growing emerging markets in which Acciona operates.
November: It took 18 months but, finally, General Electric completed its €12.4bn buyout of French firm Alstom’s energy business. This is set to give GE a foothold in the European market and help it expand offshore through the firms’ 50:50 offshore tie-up. Meanwhile, EWEA’s annual conference in Paris continued just days after devastating terror attacks.
December: The eyes of the world were on United Nations climate change talks, COP21, in Paris as 195 countries agreed a deal to limit global warming, although we remain to be convinced on the short-term benefits for wind. Meanwhile, German utility RWE announced that it plans to follow its rival E.On in splitting its renewables and fossil fuels operations.
And here’s to an equally busy 2016!
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