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
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.