EWEA 2014: The fightback begins

When Recharge started talking with EWEA last year about the Barcelona event, I must admit I felt some apprehension.

Coming to Barcelona is always fun, but — along with many others — I was worried that the show could end up being very downbeat, given the disastrous  policy turnaround in Spain over the past couple of years and the difficulties the nation’s world-beating wind industry has faced.

Since then, however, I have slowly come round to the idea that it would be hard to find a better place to host EWEA 2014. As an industry, we can’t sweep the growing policy and regulatory challenges that we face under the carpet. It would be easy to move on to the next growth spot without assessing what has happened and why.

There is a point to be made and an argument still to be won in Spain, because despite the hostile environment in the halls of power, the country’s wind sector has been a massive success. It has created a new high-tech industry, it has cut emissions and managed to reach almost unmatched levels of clean energy in the grid, and at the end of the day, it has done all this at a very reasonable price. 

There are plenty of positives to be salvaged despite the slowdown and job cuts, as Spanish firms such as Gamesa, Acciona and Iberdrola have helped to develop new wind markets in places like Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

But there are also lessons that the wind industry would be wise to learn. We need to become much better at communicating the benefits of wind power, taking a leaf out of Silicon Valley’s book and ensuring we remain relevant and continue to be seen as a force for economic transformation and growth. We need to make sure that the widespread public support we enjoy translates into solid political influence where it matters. And we need to make sure that we form the right alliances with those companies and economic interests that are committed to the transition to a new energy matrix.

In Brussels in February, 91 companies and organisations clubbed together to call for ambitious, legally binding renewables targets for 2030. The initiative was a good start, but there is a lot of work ahead of us to ensure we get the regulatory frameworks and the European energy market that we need.

Hopefully, Barcelona can be the starting point for a revived, smarter and tougher wind industry. I look forward to working with you all in the next few days.