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China and India trying to harness the power of wind

Sept 19, 2006 - Angela Macdonald-Smith - Bloomberg News

Global scramble to develop alternative sources of energy has industry executives focusing on emerging markets

SYDNEY: China and India are accelerating development of wind power, luring companies including the turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems, as restrictions hamper wind farm construction in traditional markets like Australia.

"The biggest markets in the next decade will probably be India and China in particular," said Achim Hoehne, amanager at the PB Power unit of the engineering services company Parsons Brinckerhoff. "Australia had a good market until about a year ago. Since then, companies are looking for other opportunities."

A venture partly owned by CLP Holdings of Hong Kong earlier this year scrapped more than $400 million of projects in Australia, where quotas on renewable energy have almost been met, in favor of China and India. Vestas Wind, the world's biggest wind turbine maker, and Suzlon Energy of India, Asia's largest wind turbine maker, are expanding in China.

Global oil prices have stayed above $50 a barrel for 15 months, prompting a global scramble to develop alternative energy sources. China, which gets two- thirds of its power from coal, is also trying to cut pollution.

China added almost 500 megawatts of wind energy capacity in 2005, more than double the previous year, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. That compares with growth of 11 percent in Germany, the world's largest wind market, where capacity reached 18,428 megawatts, the council, which is based in Brussels, said. China may add 2,000 megawatts of capacity this year, it estimated.

That's making the market more attractive than countries like Australia, where investments in wind projects have slowed as a government target for renewable energy use is reached.

"I would say the Australian market has seen a collapse, while there's a very significant outlook in China and other countries, but China in particular," said Mark Kelleher, managing director of Roaring 40s Renewable Energy, CLP's sustainable energy venture with Hydro Tasmania in Australia.

PB Power's Hoehne is among wind power industry executives due to speak at the Global Windpower 2006 conference that started Tuesday in Adelaide, Australia. Li Junfeng, vice president of the China Renewable Energy Association, Vilas Muttemwar, India's minister for non-conventional energy sources, Brett Thomas, managing director of Acciona's Oceania unit, and Mohammed Boutaleb, Morocco's mines and energy minister are also scheduled to address the three-day event.

China has a target of 5,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2010 and a goal of 30,000 megawatts by 2020, said Andrew Richards, president of the Australian Wind Energy Association. China National Offshore, the country's third-largest oil company, said Aug. 29 that it was studying building offshore wind farms.

"Everyone is positioning themselves to be there and be ready when things really open up," said Dan Kofoed Hansen, managing director of the Australian unit of Ahmedabad-based Suzlon. "China is still in its infancy as a market as such."

A plan to triple use of wind power in Japan, which imports almost all of its oil, is being undermined because of concern that power surges from wind farms could be disruptive. Unlike Germany, Japan lacks the national grid needed to iron out supply fluctuations from such projects.

The Japanese government drafted a plan in May 2005 to increase wind power generation to 3,000 megawatts in the five years to March 2011. As of March, Japan had a little more than 1,000 megawatts.

In China, the renewable power market still favors local companies over foreign ones, Hansen said. This is among deficiencies that probably need to be removed before the market fulfils projections of its potential, he said.

"Domestic wind power equipment is competitive compared with imported gear because the production base is nearby and it costs less to repair and maintain the equipment," said He Lixin, deputy chief of the energy department at the Xinjiang Development and Reform Commission, which overseas China's biggest wind farm.

Vestas, based in Randers, Denmark, opened a factory in northeast China in June, while Repower Systems, a German rival, signed a contract earlier this month to take control of a Chinese wind turbine manufacturing venture.

Power generation from renewable sources, while more expensive than coal-fired production, has the advantage of lower carbon dioxide emissions. China, the world's biggest sulfur dioxide polluter, plans to set up a carbon emissions exchange by the year end to encourage cleaner power generation.

Last year, about $14 billion of investments were made in the global wind energy industry, and this is set to increase, Thorbjorn Rassmussen, vice-chairman of the Global Wind Energy Council,said Tuesday at the opening session of the conference.

The growth of the Indian wind energy market is supported by legislation that encourages renewable energy projects, Hansen said. The regulations still favor local companies over international power producers, he said. India is the world's fourth-biggest wind energy market and is expanding, said Rassmussen, who is also president of Vestas's Asia-Pacific unit.

Foreign companies need an Indian partner for wind-generation projects, said J.R. Mesram, director for wind energy at the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources.

Australian investment in wind energy projects slowed last year as the nation's renewable energy industry neared the 2010 legislated target. Roaring 40s started studying ventures in China at least 18 months ago, Kelleher said.

"We foresaw that within 18 months that Australia's existing, very small target would be subscribed, and there wouldn't be many more projects going ahead," he said. "Companies are unlikely to thrive here now simply by operating in the Australian market."


Updated: 2016/06/30

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