Follow us


"The story has been growth," says Singapore-based Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) partner Daniel Waldek. "We've gone from a market that had little exposure to wind to not being able to have a sensible conversation about energy in Asia without talking about wind power." 

The numbers back up the sentiment. During 2023, the region installed 82.9 gigawatts (GW) of fresh wind capacity, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). This eclipses activity in Europe and the Americas, which installed 18.2GW and 14.4GW respectively last year. 

And the dynamic extends to offshore wind, where Europe has traditionally enjoyed leader status. "There's been rapid development of offshore wind in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, The Philippines, and increasingly lots of interest in South Korea and Japan," notes Lewis McDonald, HSF's global co-head of energy. 

"For the last decade it's been Northern Europe and China which have dominated this space," says Rob Booth, former head of assets and operations at The Crown Estate, a key player in the UK's offshore wind sector. "But now global offshore wind has truly arrived. We're seeing emerging markets like Japan and Korea – anywhere with a good coast is developing offshore wind as part of the energy mix."

The appeal is no mystery. During the 2010s falling costs and expanding production in Europe demonstrated the viability of wind as an alternative to fossil fuels – harnessing the elements has become a cornerstone of most nations' net-zero agendas. Moreover, the prospect of Asia's fast-expanding economies ending their reliance on polluting coal has huge significance for the wider energy transition.

But the awkward reality is that a still relatively young industry has for the last two years been wrestling with surging costs, strained supply chains and fractious geopolitics. The result is that marshalling the skills and investment to exponentially scale up wind power across the Asia region over what will be a crucial 10 years is a perversely formidable challenge for a proven industry.

In the second chapter of our Chasing Zero series exploring the hard realities of the energy transition, we assess the major developments in Asia as the region looks to stimulate dramatic increases in wind power and ask if high ambition can overcome daunting logistics.

 

 


Quote image

We've gone from a market that had little exposure to wind to not being able to have a sensible conversation about energy in Asia without talking about wind power.

Daniel Waldek
Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills


Powering up

2023 was a year of growth for Asian wind power, both on and offshore. China, a global leader in turbine manufacture, accounts for the overwhelming majority of new installations. During 2023, the PRC added 69.3GW of grid-connected onshore wind power and 6.3GW of offshore capacity, according to the GWEC. To put Chinese dominance into context, the overall figures for the Asia Pacific region stood at 75.8GW and 7.0GW for onshore and offshore wind respectively in the period. 

However, other markets, motivated by daunting net zero targets and calls to bolster energy security, are mobilising. After China, Taiwan is the leading offshore wind generator in the region – installing 692MW of new offshore capacity in 2023. Taiwan enjoys natural advantages with the 180-kilometre strait of water separating it from China. Taiwan has also sent a clear policy signal, committing to a further 15GW of offshore capacity by 2035. In April, wind developer Orsted announced its Greater Changhua 1 and 2a offshore wind farms were connected to the grid and set to provide Taiwan with a 900MW boost of fresh capacity.

 

Japan, meanwhile, has shown commitment to kick-starting its offshore wind sector. In December 2023, the government picked three consortia to operate offshore wind farms as the country pushes ahead with its target of 10GW of offshore deals secured by 2030 and 45GW by 2040. In March this year, a tender was agreed for the 356MW Happo-Noshiro site. In total, the four farms will amount to a 1.8GW injection of capacity.

Notes Booth, these countries appeal to investors seeking different risk profiles to established European markets: "If you look at the maturity of projects around the North Sea Basin, the returns are not what they would have been 10 or 15 years ago. There's interesting activity in South Korea, Japan and India, which for a different sort of capital is an interesting place to play."

Developments in South Korea also reflect its status as an emerging offshore wind hub. In October 2023, plans were announced for a multi-gigawatt offshore wind project off the peninsula's south-west coast, with HD Hyundai Electric, Pacifico Energy Korea, CS Wind, Korea Ocean Engineering & Consultants and Daebul Shipbuilding all agreeing to develop the project. Meanwhile, Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas revealed plans to build a nacelle facility and logistics base in the country for offshore wind in collaboration with Danish shipping giant Maersk.

 

Global offshore wind has truly arrived. We're seeing emerging markets like Japan and Korea – anywhere with a good coast is developing offshore wind as part of the energy mix.

Rob Booth
Former Head of Assets and Operations, The Crown Estate

Quote image

'A good picture'

Wind turbines are colossal engineering feats – a single blade rotation can power a home for two days. The scale is hard to overstate, requiring political engagement and plentiful investment. The capital is waiting… but will policymakers follow through? "There is clear investor appetite," observes Waldek. "A good example is Macquarie's offshore wind platform – Corio – and they are active in a number of countries. They are developing in Taiwan and Korea, and actively pursuing projects elsewhere in Asia. It paints a good picture."  

Corio's footprint is all over the region. In February last year, the investment platform and TotalEnergies signed a joint venture to develop the Formosa 3 offshore windfarm in Taiwan. More recently the pair joined forces with South Korean engineering firm SK Ecoplant to develop the BadaEnergy offshore wind portfolio in South Korea. Corio is also helping develop Australia's first offshore wind zone: Great Eastern Offshore wind, a 2.5GW fixed-bottom offshore wind project located 22 km off the coast in central Gippsland, Victoria. Funding is also diversifying, with private capital showing greater interest in the region's emerging offshore market. Global players such as Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and BlackRock are investing, as well as regional corporates such as Gulf Energy in Thailand and ACEN Renewables in the Philippines.

 

Some companies are adopting a collaborative approach amid competition for lucrative tenders. Japanese trading company Marubeni and energy giant BP came together to develop an offshore wind project in Japan, with the terms encouraging future collaboration between the pair.

Oil majors occupy a unique position in the market; BP's balance sheet means it can play investor and developer. Last year, the company acquired a 55% stake in the offshore wind portfolio of Norwegian company Deep Wind Offshore with a view to building developments in South Korea. Similar deals are expected. The last five years has seen oil majors turn to offshore wind to diversify their businesses while leveraging their skills in deploying offshore assets.

The political signals in the region are also encouraging as countries such as Australia, entirely new to offshore wind, aim to catch up. Though 2023 was muted in terms of new project announcements, through 2023/24 Australia has progressed plans for six major offshore wind areas, including the Gippsland site as well as the Hunter, Southern Ocean, Illawarra, Bass Strait and Bunbury areas.


Everyone wants bigger turbines, but it's better to knock out products you can build and are long-proven.

Angus Leslie Melville
Content Director, IJGlobal


Weather warnings

But money and good intentions will not be enough. Increased costs and geopolitical tensions are global forces challenging the ability to scale up. Only a handful of companies can make the kit needed for large offshore rigs and the industry is beset by bottlenecks from the huge barges needed to move turbines to the challenges of installing enough cable to transmit the power where needed.

Noting a 30% increase in local production costs in the last two years, Melbourne-based projects partner Gerard Pike says sustained state support will be crucial. "Onshore wind and solar and storage projects can stand on their own two feet but we need to see significant government support if we are going to see our first offshore wind projects constructed here in the next decade. The capex requirements for those projects are going to be much greater on a per-megawatt basis, particularly on the first few projects. There are going to need to be state-subsidised offtakes and I hope governments focus on that if they're serious about the offshore wind industry in Australia."

 

There are also concerns about a lack of competition resulting in sub-standard parts reaching developers, with only a handful of original equipment manufacturers dominating the space [see An ill wind].

"Where the tech is new and proprietary it is challenging for clients," notes Waldek. "Paying extra care to those arrangements is important. Often, you're negotiating from a relatively weak position, so trying to strengthen that position through international competition can be useful."

Quote image

Onshore wind and solar projects can stand on their own two feet but we need significant government support if we're going to see our first offshore wind projects constructed in Australia in the next decade.

Gerard Pike
Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills

The fear for the industry is the combination of uneconomic projects agreed on lower, pre-2022 costs combined with the daunting technical challenges associated with the race to install larger turbines could overwhelm some of the major players. A single turbine requires thousands of parts, while the average tower is almost 100 metres tall.

"Everyone wants bigger turbines, but it's better to knock out products you can build and are long-proven," warns Angus Leslie Melville, content director at infrastructure and projects journal IJGlobal. "The enthusiasm to make bigger turbines is causing an issue for deployment, and I worry about the future of turbine manufacturers. It wouldn't be the first time we have seen turbine companies over-extend, go bust or need to be bailed out."

Meanwhile, Asia – while possessing some of the world's fastest winds – is also home to some of its most challenging coastlines and seabed. Floating offshore wind developments could prove the solution – and have attracted huge investor and industry attention – but the technology is still developing [see Will it float?].

The reality is, for all the ambition and progress, the Asia-Pacific nations will need to demonstrate more sustained commitment in climate policy. Australia illustrates the gap. According to trade body the Clean Energy Council, financial commitments to utility scale renewable generation in Australia fell from A$6.5 billion in 2022 to A$1.5 billion in 2023.


Quote image

There's so much happening to diversify supply. We have dependencies on hydrocarbons and can't just trade that for a dependency on renewable energy components.

Lewis McDonald
Global Co-Head of Energy, Herbert Smith Freehills


Crunch time

Australia is a bellwether for the Asian wind market, with its recent history of stop-start policy on clean energy having stymied a nation with abundant capacity. The World Bank Group estimates that Australia has more than 2,900GW of untapped technical offshore wind resource. While Australian renewable power output has surged in recent years – primarily due to solar installation – state commitments will be key for major offshore wind projects, which require long lead times and high upfront costs before the low-cost power can be harvested. The administration under Anthony Albanese has ushered in a far stronger decarbonisation agenda but questions remain on whether current policies are enough to ramp up renewables while simultaneously phasing out coal-fired stations.

"This year is looking more positive," says Pike. "There are more projects which are going to achieve financial close. There's been an adjustment of market expectations and an increase in production of certain components."

The prospects of a breakthrough in Australia also reflect hopes that key Asian nations can ramp up co-operation, notably among nations like Japan and South Korea, to forge the kind of interconnections that have been a plank of Europe's success in driving renewable production.

 

Closer connections would also provide a stronger counterweight to China's industry domination. And while energy security policies undoubtably hike costs and aggravate the short-term capacity crunch facing the industry, efforts to localise production will likely ultimately support a wider expansion of output. After all, China has in isolation overseen a dramatic increase in clean energy, with the International Energy Agency this year noting that 2023 saw a global surge in renewable capacity, up 50%, or 510GW over the 12 months – the fastest growth in 20 years. While China led the way – with wind capacity increasing 66% in a year – large increases were also evident in Europe, the US and Brazil. Policies like the US's Inflation Reduction Act and the EU's Net Zero Act, which incentivise production, likewise look set to further build global wind capacity.

"There's so much happening to diversify supply," notes McDonald. "Even though China can produce most of the necessary components much cheaper, it is not ideal to have so many products coming from one nation. We have dependencies on hydrocarbons and can't just trade that for a dependency on renewable energy components."

The recent experience in Europe's market also indicates higher prices are helping to stabilise the industry after a turbulent two years without choking off demand, further supporting wind power at a global level. Despite recent market jolts, in essence, wind power remains one of the safest long-term bets for post-carbon energy. "We're engaged in helping our clients navigate the challenges across the entire region," concludes McDonald. "The breadth and depth of opportunities in the offshore wind sector in the APAC region are incredible."

Coming later this month, the second part of this special report will focus on Europe's wind power sector



Chasing Zero – Energy Transition

Sign up to receive updates on this series

Key contacts

Gerard Pike photo

Gerard Pike

Partner, Melbourne

Gerard Pike
Daniel Waldek photo

Daniel Waldek

Partner, Singapore

Daniel Waldek
Rebecca Major photo

Rebecca Major

Partner, Paris

Rebecca Major
Lewis McDonald photo

Lewis McDonald

Global Co-Head of Energy, London

Lewis McDonald
Nick Baker photo

Nick Baker

Partner and Global Co-Head of Energy, Melbourne

Nick Baker
Anthony Patten photo

Anthony Patten

Partner, Head of Energy - Asia, Singapore

Anthony Patten
Hilary Lau photo

Hilary Lau

Partner, Hong Kong

Hilary Lau
Lachlan Clancy photo

Lachlan Clancy

Partner, Tokyo

Lachlan Clancy

Stay in the know

We’ll send you the latest insights and briefings tailored to your needs

Climate Change ESG, Sustainability and Responsible Business Energy Power Renewables Infrastructure Energy Transition and Net Zero ESG Geopolitics and Business Gerard Pike Rebecca Major Daniel Waldek Lewis McDonald Nick Baker