Wind energy in Asia

This puts an end to the assertion that wind power is a premium technology only for rich countries which cannot be deployed at scale in other markets. It is also testament to the inherent attractiveness of wind power for countries striving to diversify their energy mix, improve their security of supply in the face of rapidly growing demand, and relieve national budgets of the burden of expensive fossil fuel imports at volatile prices.

Environmental factors such as improving air quality and public health, and carbon reductions to fight against climate change also play an important role in many of these new markets. There is also a noticeable shift in attitudes towards wind turbines in many countries. While the technology would have been dismissed as too expensive by many developing country energy planners just a few years ago, the continuing success of the technology in an ever widening group of countries has changed that attitude to one of dramatically increased knowledge about wind farm generation and the role that it can play in a country’s power mix.

The growth of wind power outside of the OECD has been primarily driven by the continuing boom in China, which is now the country with the largest installed wind power capacity in the world. The Chinese government has a clear commitment to developing the country’s massive wind resource, partly driven by the need for increasing its power generation capacity to fuel a growing economy and to spur rural economic development.

Furthermore, the Chinese government is committed to slowing down the country’s increasing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing air pollution. This political commitment was underpinned by favourable policies to boost wind power development, and this has led to exceptional growth in this sector. After four years of doubling its installed wind farm capacity from 2006-2009, a record capacity of 16.5 GW was added to the Chinese wind fleet in 2010, taking the total up to 42.3 GW.

Wind power now represents nearly a fifth of all yearly net power generation capacity additions in China, nearly on par with hydro. Beyond wind power’s environmental and energy security benefits, the Chinese government also recognises the economic opportunity of building a strong domestic manufacturing base.

In 2009, out of the world’s top ten wind turbine manufacturers, three were Chinese (Sinovel, Goldwind and Datang), and annual domestic production capacity is now at least 30 GW. Chinese manufacturers are increasingly looking at international markets, and it is expected that Chinese wind turbines will soon be fully competing in the global market place.

A similar picture is emerging in India, albeit on a smaller scale. A rapidly growing economy and expanding population create a growing demand for power, and supply struggles to keep up with demand. Electricity shortages are common, and a significant part of the population has no access to electricity at all. In order to address this problem, the Indian government created a target of an additional 78.7 GW of generation capacity from 2007-2012, 10.5 GW of which will be new wind generation capacity.

The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) estimates that there is a potential of 48.5 GW of wind power development, but industry experts estimate that a minimum of 100 GW could be realised in India. At the end of 2010, India had 13.1 GW of installed wind capacity, with 40% operating in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Like in China, India’s wind power development has spurred domestic manufacturing, and the Indian company Suzlon is now a global leader. 17 companies now manufacture wind turbines equipment in India, with a production capacity of 7.5 GW per year. Thanks to new market entrants, it is expected that this will rise to 17 GW or more by 2013, according to the World Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE). Wind turbines and turbine blades made in India have been exported to the USA, Europe, Australia, China and Brazil.

While wind markets in the rest of Asia are only at the early stages of development, there is considerable potential and some promising signs. Across the region there are at least a dozen vibrant and rapidly growing economies in which wind energy could play a significant role, and there is increasing interest in the technology from policymakers and utility executives.

While wind energy in South Korea is still in its infancy, the Korean government recently introduced a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) scheme and set an ambitious target of developing 2.5 GW of offshore wind power by 2020. Several Korean heavy manufacturers such as Samsung, Hyundai and Daewoo have started to include wind turbines in their portfolio in order to compete both domestically and in the international marketplace. In 2010, installed wind farm capacity increased by 30 MW to reach 379 MW.

In the Philippines, 33 MW of wind power are currently operating, but the technical potential is estimated at around 55 GW, over three times the country’s current total installed generation capacity, according to UNEP’s Solar and Wind Resource Assessment (SWERA). The government has set a target for 40% of its electricity to be generated by renewable sources by 2020, up from the current 33%. Both the Philippines government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have set up funds to help with this process.

Vietnam has 18 MW of operating wind power capacity, but strong winds could support 642 GW of wind energy development, according to SWERA. In addition, Vietnam has a fast-growing economy and a growing demand for electric power. The Vietnamese government is aiming for renewable power to provide about 5% of the nation’s electricity by 2020. Investor interest in the Vietnamese wind market is
considerable, and various wind power projects are reported to be in the pipeline.

Thailand’s growing affluence has led to a startling rise in per capita electricity consumption, which has grown by almost 25% in the past five years. An estimated 30.2 GW of new generation capacity will be needed by 2021. The government has announced a target of increasing the share of renewable energy from 6.4% in 2008 to 20% in 2022, with an 800 MW target for wind farm capacity. According to SWERA, Thailand’s technical wind resource could support the development of 190 GW of wind power.

Prosperous Taiwan imports 98% of its fuel needs, and has set a target for renewables to meet 10% of its electricity by 2010, up from 5.8% currently. Wind power is expected to meet 80% of that, and a feed-in tariff was introduced in 2009. During 2010, Taiwan installed 83 MW of new wind power, bringing its total to 519 MW.

In Pakistan, the far-reaching implications of the flood disaster of 2010 on infrastructure in general, and the power infrastructure specifically, have worsened the supply situation and led to acute power shortage. Most of the country’s power needs to date are met by fossil fuels. To support the addition of renewable capacity, the Asian Development Bank set up a 510 million USD financing facility in 2006, and a feed-in tariff was introduced.

In addition, USAID is co-funding a public-private partnership to develop a 150 MW wind project in the Gharo Corridor. The potential for wind power is estimated to be around 350 GW, according to both the Pakistani government and SWERA.

Other countries in the region have also set ambitious targets for wind power development, but this has not always been followed up by the introduction of effective policy frameworks. Bangladesh, for example, has set a target of reaching 5% of its electricity to come from renewables by 2015; Mongolia plans to increase its share of renewable electricity from the current 3% to 20–25% by 2020; Sri Lanka wants to go from the current 5% to reach 10% by 2017 and 14.1% by 2022, and Indonesia is planning to build 255 MW of wind capacity by 2025.