FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Investment in new European wind farms and equipment is expected to increase this year after a sharp drop in 2017, helped by several large project auctions, according to a major industry body.
Spending is forecast to rise 4 percent to 23.2 billion euros ($28.7 billion), WindEurope said in its financing report, after a 19-percent decline in 2017 due to a sector shift toward competitive tender-based auctions and away from subsidies.
Investment is expected to rise to 26 billion euros next year, before falling back to 24.2 billion in 2020, the estimates show.
“Both 2016 and 2017 have been transitional years for the wind sector,” WindEurope said. “However, investment volumes are expected to stabilize in 2018 with the roll-out of auctions across Europe and projects awarded support expecting to reach final investment decisions.”
Europe is home to a large number of leading players in the global wind power sector, be it project developers or equipment manufacturers, including Vestas, Orsted, Siemens Gamesa, EnBW, Nordex and Innogy.
At 22.3 billion euros, investments in new wind capacity were by far the biggest driver of spending on renewable energy projects on the continent in 2017, accounting for half of investments, WindEurope said.
Spending on new assets does not reflect refinancing, mergers and acquisitions and the raising of debt across the industry. Including these figures, total wind investment stood at 51.2 billion euros in 2017, an all-time high.
This was primarily driven by project and company acquisitions, which more than doubled to 14.4 billion euros last year, compared with 6.8 billion in 2016.
“Sector maturity and technology competitiveness have brought in more investors as equity partners in projects, in particular from the financial services industry. These partnerships are key for power producers who need to recycle capital to finance new assets,” WindEurope said.
It added infrastructure and pension funds, asset managers and other financial service companies owned more than a third of the capacity that was bought or sold last year, up from 27 percent in 2016.
Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Mark Potter