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IRENA chief touts “enormous potential” of emerging market wind power

As the share of wind and other renewables continues to grow in advanced markets, so does that of emerging markets – now eyed as promising hotspots for the sector

There is huge potential for wind market expansion in Africa, Asia and Latin America amid energy demand escalation and widespread shortages

Emerging markets, particularly in Africa, should be opened worldwide for wind power to regain its stellar pre-2009 growth rates, which helped to make it a mainstream energy source in many markets, according to the head of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

IRENA Director-General, Adnan Z. Amin said the wind power sector will “see enormous potential in Africa, Asia and Latin America in markets hungry for energy, with growing populations, high economic growth, expensive electricity and widespread shortages”.

Mr Amin was speaking at a conference this month on the industry in Europe and at the launch of new IRENA report entitled “30 Years of Policies for Wind”.

Wind energy in Africa already represents 630 MW of a total of 1450 MW of renewable power in the first round of bidding and may be awarded another 1200 MW in the remaining rounds to be announced in 2012. This round was the first bidding under South Africa’s long-range plan which envisages more than 8000 MW of wind energy by 2030.

Globally, wind power is starting to spread more widely, with 68 countries now boasting above 10 MW of wind capacity. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the industry is expected to continue to grow during the next five years. The situation is difficult however, particularly for manufacturers, with a large oversupply of wind turbines adding to existing downward price pressure from general economic conditions.

“The growth of wind power over the past 15 years has matched that of telecoms and IT, with wind becoming a mainstream generation technology around the world,” said Mr Amin.

But the industry has faced tough times since 2009, when annual market growth fell into single digits, following 15-year average growth of 28 per cent. Along with the prevailing economic uncertainty and fiscal challenges, the industry suffers from high market concentration, with oversupply in the most advanced wind markets.

IRENA – an intergovernmental agency promoting all forms of renewable energy – can help to spread wind-power technology into other, high-growth markets, such as developing countries with rising energy needs, Mr Amin said on 4 February. He made the remarks at the annual meeting of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) in Vienna, Austria.

IRENA recently launched the Global Renewable Energy Atlas, prepared in cooperation with the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), outlines policy lessons from 12 leading wind markets, from the US to China and Denmark to Brazil.

Meanwhile, the share of wind and other renewables also continues to grow in advanced markets. In Spain, wind farms have become the largest source of electricity, accounting for more than a quarter of total power generation. Wind-power took the largest share – ahead of both nuclear and coal-fired power stations – for the first time in the last three months (November-January), according to reports on 4 February citing Spanish energy data.

“The long-term fundamentals of wind remain strong and are growing stronger,” Mr Amin said. “I am confident that the best days for the wind industry lie ahead.”