Celebrating 30 years of wind power in Europe

This is an organisation that has gone from humble beginnings when a small group of engineers in Stockholm in 1982 first discussed it, to now speaking for 700 members in almost 60 countries around the world. The growth of EWEA has mirrored the growth of the industry.

EWEA initially represented what was seen as an ‘alternative’ power source. It quickly became the voice of a multi-billion wind turbines industry, one which employs hundreds of thousands of people in the EU and exports European technology around the world.

Speaking about the early years of EWEA, British academic John Twidell recalls that “We had more words than megawatts at the first meetings.” Indeed, up until 1990 less than 450 megawatts of European wind farm capacity had been installed. A decade later, the figure was up to 12,887 MW, and it has grown exponentially since then, with 93,957 MW of wind farm capacity installed by 2011, representing 10.5% of total EU power capacity.

EWEA has worked hand in hand with its members to ensure the political framework has been in place for this growth. EU directives on renewable electricity in 2001 and on renewable energy in 2009 have been vital. At the time of the 2001 directive, then-EWEA President Klaus Rave described it as “an historic landmark for the wind energy industry. For the first time the EU, after a long history of steel, coal and nuclear, has acknowledged that renewable energy is a vital partner in the international energy market.” On the agreement of the 2009 directive, current EWEA CEO Christian Kjaer said “Europe has turned away from transferring ever larger amounts of European citizens’ wealth to a handful of fuel-exporting nations, opting instead to put the money to work at home and exploit our abundant domestic renewable energy resources.”

EWEA moved to Brussels from London at the beginning of the new millennium, to be at the heart of the European decision-making process and to fulfil its primary role of influencing energy policy. As Andrew Garrad, ex-Chairman of EWEA says: “This is a political business. Unless you get the politics right, it won’t go anywhere”. In 2000 EWEA was still a small-scale operation but an ambitious one, and the numbers grew from two full-time staff to the current 60 over past the decade, to reflect this ambition. This led EWEA to move in 2010 to its new larger home in Wind Power House, not far from the European Parliament.

The Association represents all the major players and organisations in the wind power community, and organises international conferences and exhibitions that bring together the entire industry. All the income generated at EWEA events, and the membership fees, go directly back into EWEA’s policy work, enabling us to carry on influencing EU policy on energy and climate.

EWEA and its members will celebrate the past three decades at EWEA 2012, Europe’s premier wind event, where 10,000 professionals are expected to attend. This year EWEA 2012 is in Copenhagen, an appropriate location given the long-standing Danish mastery of harnessing the power of the wind. In Copenhagen, EWEA and its members will not only toast the previous 30 years of success, but also start discussing the next 30 years and beyond.

By Tom Rowe, http://blog.ewea.org/