Recharge Thought Leaders Summit

Over 50 top figures in the renewables industry gathered in the hills above Oslo on 9 January for Recharge’s first Holmenkollen Thought Leaders Summit.

Participants spent the day debating the most pressing challenges facing the wind and solar industries and tried to suggest some solutions towards overcoming them.

The event was opened by Henrik Madsen, chief executive of DNV GL, which sponsored the conference, and Recharge editor-in-chief Ben Backwell. Both addressed the fight against political headwinds and what renewables needs to do to regain the initiative.

“There must be a level playing field with hydrocarbons, which receives maybe ten times larger subsidies than wind and solar worldwide,” said Madsen. “Renewable industries must also be able to take on the hydrocarbon industry on communication and lobbying,” he added, noting how effective the coal industry has been in that area — even managing to sell the concept of “clean coal”.

Communication strategies and their effectiveness was a hotly debated theme in the main morning plenary.

“The renewables industry can be much better at performing joint industry research and development,” Madsen added. “The oil & gas industry is very good at collaborating to solve issues.”

Backwell’s message was that the wind and solar industries need to go on the offensive, taking a leaf out of Silicon Valley’s book and presenting itself as a sector that is on the cutting edge of social and technological change.

“As an industry we need to show we can solve society’s problems and not just lobby for our own narrow interests,” he said. “We need to stop complaining and come up with solutions.”

Backwell put forth an agenda for change, including being more proactive on proposing repowering schemes for old wind and solar generation assets,

addressing the opportunity presented by the electricity deficit in the developing world, creating innovative forms of investment in renewables and encouraging a better gender balance and attracting more young people into the sector.

Debate throughout the day was frank and open, given the fact that the sessions were held under Chatham House rules. Speaking after the event, J-P Mäkinen, chief executive of The Switch, said: “For the first time ever, the Recharge Thought Leaders Summit brought together the biggest names from wind turbine manufacturers, developers, utilities and suppliers to work on solving the challenges facing the industry. The overall feeling was a strong common desire to move forward as a united front.”

In the evening, participants enjoyed the view from the top of Holmenkollen’s world-famous ski jump, before listening to an entertaining dinner speech by Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing.

The event left many participants wanting more. Recharge is already working on the invitation list and themes for Holmenkollen 2015.