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Europe to retain dominance, China to stumble, says GWEC

International trade association takes stock of global capacity outlook

Europe will have installed 40GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020, but a lack of administrative coordination will hamper China's development plans. These are the key conclusions of a short report by The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the international trade association for the wind power industry.

Published on 10 September, Global Offshore: Current Status and Future Prospects notes that current global capacity amounts to 4.62GW. Europe hosts more than 4.3GW of installed, fully grid connected offshore wind capacity, with UK waters home to around half of this.

Binding EU targets to source 20% of final energy consumption from renewables are underpinning Europe's development pipeline. Around 6GW of capacity is under construction in the region, 17GW has been consented, and long-term plans call for a further 114GW.

By 2016, Europe is forecast to install 16.2GW of offshore wind capacity, most of it in the North Sea. And by 2020, the UK alone is expected to have up to 18GW of capacity. By 2022, the UK's Crown Estate has pencilled in almost 32GW, while Europe as a whole could have around 40GW of installed capacity by 2020.

But "the major challenge... is to continue to bring down costs", notes GWEC. It says that technology cost reductions have continued to be achieved, and that this is one of the main reasons underpinning confidence in the sector's prospects. The cost of energy from offshore wind will "come down substantially" as large-scale roll-out of next generation offshore turbines takes place, it adds.

In contrast to Europe, China's ambitious development plans are likely to fall short, asserts GWEC. China plans to develop 5GW by 2015 and 30GW by 2020, but a lack of coordination between state administrations is likely to stymie these goals, says GWEC.

A "cohesive national plan" is required, if China's offshore wind sector is to successfully develop, says GWEC. And only if coordination is improved, is China expected to show much progress in the coming years. Demonstration projects have a role to play here, especially as testing grounds for new offshore turbines.

GWEC also notes Japanese interest in developing offshore wind capacity, based on floating offshore platforms. Offshore wind "has the potential to contribute significantly to the domestic energy supply, creating a new industry in Japan and helping to reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear power", asserts GWEC.

South Korean efforts to speed up offshore wind development are also highlighted by GWEC. A mid- and long-term offshore wind power development roadmap is due for publication in the first half of 2013.

Commenting on the longer term outlook, Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General told Windpower Offshore: "The industry is still mostly in Europe but watch out for the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese".

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