Wind power projects in China are staring at a double whammy of a fast approaching 1 January 2021 deadline for withdrawal of subsidies and supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to industry experts.

China, which is the world's largest wind energy market, connected 23.8 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind to the grid in 2019, increasing its installed capacity to 230 GW, according to latest annual report of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

GWEC expects the rush seen in the second half of 2019 to install more than 60 GW onshore wind projects that was approved before the end of 2018 to continue in 2020 as developers rush to beat the year-end deadline for the phase-out of wind subsidies in China.

These approved projects must be completed by 31 December 2020 to receive Feed-in-Tariff (0.85RMB/kWh) benefit, currently based on the regulated price for coal power, according to Chinese Wind Energy Association (CWEA).

"Without subsidised electricity prices, there is a risk of leaving behind a bad tail of projects shelved or cancelled", said CWEA's Secretary General Qin Haiyan during a webinar hosted by GWEC in April.

He said the association has proposed to China's National Energy Administration (NEA) and National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) to push the commissioning deadline forward by at least six months and include wind sector in any COVID-19 stimulus package in the future.

Imports of raw materials such as Balsa Wood and PVC, and key components, such as main bearings, gearbox bearings and IGBT chips, have been affected by COVID-19 lockdowns in countries such as Italy, Germany and Ecuador, according to the webinar speakers.

COVID-19's impact on the market outlook is still to be measured, but wind producers in China have already downgraded wind capacity additions to 25 GW in 2020, lower than targeted 35 GW, according to speakers at the webinar.

GWEC had forecasted China's onshore installations to touch nearly 30 GW in 2020.

They said China has managed to control the pandemic, but the wind power industry in general is still dealing with its impact on projects and the supply chain.

China's top wind turbine manufacturer Goldwind claimed that it is operating at 98 percent capacity inside the country but not at its overseas locations.

"Majority of manufacturing plants in China have resumed production, fully returning to normal but overseas offices are closed and employees are still working from home," said Zhai Endi, Corporate Chief Engineer, Goldwind during the webinar.

"Although China managed to get the virus under control within two months, damage has been done to the flow of supply chain and project execution in 2020 and few months of delay is expected," he said, adding that the company is aiming to deliver 12-14 GW this year after a slow first quarter.

GWEC CEO Ben Backwell said the wind power sector needs to be included within COVID-19 stimulus plans planned for economic recovery.

"In 2019, the rapid growth in installations was largely the result of a strong year in both China and the US - the world's two largest markets that added more than 60 percent of 60.4 GW onshore wind generators to [raise] the total world capacity [to] 651 GW," he said.

Apart from China and US, the top onshore wind markets were India (2.4 GW), Spain (2.3 GW) and Sweden (1.6 GW), he added.

(Writing by Saket S.; Editing by Anoop Menon)


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