Windsights: Wind industry must exercise its muscle

One of a new “Windsights” series highlighting insights from the WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Exhibition – in the words of the experts themselves. Michael Garland, President and CEO of Pattern Energy Group Inc. and the new AWEA Board of Directors Chair, will moderate the Wind Industry Leaders Panel at this mornings general session.

With all of the benefits that the wind industry is bringing to Americans, we need to  send a message that we will demand nothing less than a level playing field.

We need to act as the formidable force that we are, signaling to policymakers that as a large and popular industry, we are a force to be reckoned with.

It is time to demand stable and effective policy. That means a long-term extension of the federal Production Tax Credit. It means ensuring that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan is effectively implemented to allow wind energy, a leading means of reducing carbon pollution, to contribute to its goals appropriately. It means protecting state renewable portfolio standards so they can continue to fuel economic and clean-energy growth.

Despite policy challenges, our industry has shown just how effective we can be. Construction numbers are up, and the cost of wind is down. Those indicators alone would back up a positive assessment of where the industry stands, but in fact they barely scratch the surface in terms of revealing the excitement—not so much for what we’ve done thus far, but for what lies ahead.

To start, not only is the cost of wind down (more than 50 percent between 2009 and 2013), it’s expected to continue its downward trajectory. Moreover, after operating for years as a “next big thing” in the eyes of many observers, wind energy has become an acknowledged big industry, a formidable player on the energy landscape that has generated more than $100 billion in private investment since 2008. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy has released its Wind Vision, which shows that wind energy can double to provide 10 percent of America’s electricity by 2020, double again to provide 20 percent by 2030, before providing 35 percent by 2050.

It’s a fantastic time, therefore, because of the strong platform the industry has established to take itself to the next phase of its evolution. At this morning’s general session in the Wind Industry Leaders Panel at the WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Exhibition, some of the most prominent leaders in the business will share their thoughts on this pivotal time in the industry’s development.

How will the industry gain support for stable policy to consistently deploy 5,000-10,000 MW per year? How will it continue to drive down the cost of wind in the next 3-5 years to best compete with natural gas at $4 (per MMBTW, British thermal units in millions)? How can we ensure that wind energy, as one of the most effective means of reducing carbon pollution in the electric sector, is able to contribute to achieving the goals of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan?

These are all great challenges, but now is a fantastic time for wind energy in that the industry is working on these issues and knows that effectively addressing them is in reach. Whether a particular issue involves policy or technology, a big industry tackles challenges by refusing to take no for an answer. That kind of tone will pepper this morning’s discussion.

Weighing in on these questions at the session will be a stellar lineup of industry leaders representing multiple key segments of the industry:

  • Chris Brown, President, Vestas
  • Tim Maag, Vice President and General Manager, Mortenson Construction
  • James Murphy,  Executive Vice President, CFO and COO, Officer, Invenergy LLC
  • Mike O’ Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Development, NextEra Energy, Inc.
  • Michael Storch, Executive Vice President, Enel Green Power North America, Inc.
  • Jeffrey Wehner, Vice President of Operations, Duke Energy Renewables

Come and join in on the conversation to see where we all can take the industry next.

WINDPOWER traditionally marks the start of a new year for the AWEA Board of Directors, and I’m honored to be starting my tenure as Board Chair here in Orlando.

For AWEA members and industry advocates, I encourage you to step up to help signify the strength of our industry. We must bolster the strength of the industry by advocating and contributing to the Wind Energy Foundation and WindPAC so that those entities can properly do their jobs of educating and advocating.

Our future is emerging, and our Wind Vision is crystalizing. Now is the time to step up our game to ensure it is realized.

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