Day 1 at EWEA Offshore 2011: An industry approaching adulthood

Despite being over 3800 miles from home, the message I heard at this morning’s opening session of The EWEA Offshore conference sounded very familiar.  The Conference kicked off this morning with over 7,500 key stakeholders descending upon Amsterdam to discuss the pressing issues facing the offshore wind industry in Europe.  EWEA kicked things off by releasing their latest analysis of all existing offshore wind projects in 17 EU member states.
Their findings are impressive, with over 141 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity built, under construction, consented, or planned in Europe: enough to power 130 million average EU households.
Ian Marchant (CEO of SSE Renewables) praised this achievement but commented that today’s conference feels a little bit like giving a commencement speech at a graduation. It’s important to celebrate just how far this industry has come in the last 10 years but also acknowledge that now is when the real work begins.  The offshore industry in Europe is ready to transition from its infancy and heads into adulthood. What exactly does the “real work” entail for this industry? According to Marchant, it means becoming “bolder” as an industry. The first step the industry can take towards being bolder is thinking about stable policies beyond 2020.  Acknowledging that the supply chain isn’t going to be able to truly flourish on six-year timeline and the industry needs to demand clear targets for 2030 and beyond.
It was really interesting for me to be so far from home, on a different continent, home to a different political climate with different views on decarbonizing the economy, yet still hear the same call for consistent policies.  
When the CEOs from the morning panel convened for a Q&A with the press, their message was simple and clear, yet familiar: Stable policies can and will drive this industry into adulthood and beyond. It’s exciting and inspiring to see the success of the European offshore wind industry. I’m excited to follow the advice of the pioneers of this growing industry and learn about their successes and failures and bring those stories back home to help bring our industry out of its infancy–perhaps we are ready to conquer adolescence.

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