Inflation, supply chain disruption and the result of the industry’s “race to the bottom” on cost dominated headlines this year. But has the year been better for the wind industry than we predicted in the first edition of 2023? Here, we revisit our ten predictions for wind and see what we got right.
Fun hasn’t been top of the agenda for the global wind industry in 2023.
Companies have been battling inflation, supply chain disruption and the threat of lapsed projects in countries around the world. That is in addition to permitting delays, increased competition from Chinese turbine makers, and political uncertainty.
These challenges are partly the result of a changing economic situation, and partly due to the industry’s fixation in recent years on driving down costs at the expense of profits through the value chain. The industry needs to take a hard look at itself as we enter 2024 to put projects on a more profitable footing.
Yet those 12 months have still flown by. It feels like only yesterday that we were drafting our ten predictions for the wind industry in 2023. In this final edition of the year, we want to revisit those predictions and see if things were better or worse than we expected. We will then give ourselves a mark out of ten…
1) More pain for European and US turbine makers: We said there would be little financial respite for European and US turbine makers due to increased competition from China and ongoing financial woes. The true picture may be even worse than that given how Siemens Gamesa dominated headlines over €4.7bn failures in some of its onshore models. In 2023, we’ve seen the ‘race to the bottom’ bite hard. 1
2) Inflation cools but value chain feels the effects: We expected inflation to ease in Europe, the UK and the US from mid-2023, and it has done. But that doesn’t mean the financial pain is over: profits are still tight or non-existent, and we are yet to see stalled projects get going once again. This has given the wake-up call that we said the sector needed about the levels of strike prices that firms were bidding in tenders, and the need for more political support, such as in the EU’s Wind Power Package. 1
3) Oil to average $90 a barrel or more through 2023: If you want to look like a fool, put an exact number in a prediction. We expected oil prices to stay high in 2023 after the Ukraine war and economic unlocking post-Covid, but $90 a barrel has been around 6% higher than the true 2023 figure of $85 a barrel. Our overall analysis was largely right, but we can’t claim the point for this one. Rules are rules. 0
4) High power prices spark greater PPA flexibility: We predicted there would be robust demand for power purchase agreements (PPAs) in 2023, and that has proven the case in a record year. However, our prediction of more flexibility in PPAs has not happened. Rather, the fact PPA prices have stabilised in 2023 has prompted firms to look for more stability, not flexibility, in deals. Half a point. 0.5
5) UK wind farm debate will roll on and on: We welcomed UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment to end a de facto ban on wind that took effect in 2015, but warned that it would need to be backed with fresh planning policies. These have been slow to appear. In addition, Sunak faced a sizeable rebellion on support for wind in September, which shows that the argument was never put to bed. The debate continues. 1
6) US states to get real on offshore local content: A reasonable prediction that missed the big story. We expected more leasing activity in US offshore wind, which there was, but our forecast of more state collaboration on local content missed the point. Rather, the biggest talking point in US offshore wind in 2023 was buried at the end of our prediction, where we forecast that inflation would keep biting and that major offshore wind projects would stall. The financial difficulties for projects have been worse than we predicted, so we can only claim half a point. 0.5
7) Repowering accelerates in Europe and US: Repowering old wind farms picked up in 2023, but our forecast of “headline-grabbing” deals was a tad optimistic! We did see big repowering orders, especially in the US, but repowering was far from the major industry talking point in 2023 due to the many bigger challenges that we have been discussing. Even so, the acceleration is happening so we’ll claim the point. 1
8) Australia, Japan and Norway emerge offshore: We’ve seen a series of large offshore wind projects announced in Australia in the last year, while Norway has been belatedly pressing on with its first major offshore wind tender after some delays. We have also seen momentum increase in Japan in the last week as the government announced three winners in its second commercial-scale offshore wind auction. We’ll shave off a quarter of a point as Norway hasn’t been the big-hitter we expected. 0.75
9) More wind owners add co-located batteries: We have seen greater interest from the wind sector in adding co-located batteries to their wind farms. If you aren’t currently reading Energy Storage Report then sign up today for more info on that. And we have no doubt in our statement that the industry is moving on from standalone wind projects towards the widespread use of hybrids. 1
Got a wind-and-storage hybrid project that you think deserves recognition? Enter our Wind Investment Awards by 9th February 2024. Details below.
10) Power-to-X to accelerate through to COP28: Momentum in the power-to-X and green hydrogen sectors has accelerated through 2023 ahead of COP28 in Dubai, and we have seen mammoth projects announced in markets that many renewables firms won’t have touched before: Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan to name just three. The other fascinating element is that we have seen a PPA to power green hydrogen production at Butendiek offshore wind farm, which promise further similar PPAs in the year ahead. 1
It’s always difficult marking your own homework but, by our reckoning, that gives us a highly unscientific final score of 7.75/10. We will now be on holiday until the first edition of the new year, on 4th January 2024, and would love to catch up with you then.
Finally, if you have a few hours spare over the festive period, why not take the chance to reflect on your successes of 2023 and submit an entry for our Wind Investment Awards? We are accepting nominations until 9th February 2024.