WIND

The Local vs The International

ADAM BARBER

December 19, 2011

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Last week, three unconnected incidents took place that, in an instant, illustrate the differing challenges facing the North American, European and Asian wind energy markets. Something that is pertinent, as 2011 draws to a close.

Consider the following:

1.) In China, a Chinese trawler captain stabbed two Korean coastguards, killing one and injuring the other, over escalating battles between fishing grounds and offshore energy rights.

 

2.) In the US, following storms earlier in the year, Bonneville Power Administration acknowledged that it had discriminated against wind and hydro plants, when it unplugged the generators as the power surged.

 

3.) And in Europe [or given the current political climate, perhaps just, the UK? Ed.] developers switched on and plugged in a 76-metre turbine, despite a declined council application. The council had refused consent on the basis that, “…it would have an impact on the users of the [local] crematorium.” – but that’s another story.

Three very different industry challenges, within three very different corners of the world.

For the Chinese, the conflict with the Koreans demonstrates the rapid rise of renewables in the region and provides a timely glimpse into future political tensions that may slow or even stagnate future financial growth.

To date, China has invested heavily in onshore wind energy initiatives and if this level of ambition moves offshore and into open water, then a new level of international wind energy politics will quickly come to the fore.

For the US and more specifically, for federal agencies such as Bonneville, the repercussions of the generator switch off remind us all of the investor’s dependence on future power generating returns and revenues.

And within Western Europe, the spat played out between a local authority and an independent developer, reiterate the complexity of the planning and consent challenge – a struggle perpetuated throughout Western Europe.

All three incidents of course, set in chain a whole series of events that have ramifications on the local market and create wider market issues that must be overcome – be it financial, federal, territorial or political.

And that’s the thing. While the wind energy market may well be global, its international success can only ever be driven at a local level – a lesson that the major manufacturers and developers have already had to learn.

With many smaller but equally ambitious businesses set to make their first international steps in 2012, how quickly will learn from those that have come before?

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