EWEA’s 2013 Annual Event sounds notes of caution and optimism

With the highest-level movers and shakers of the wind energy world, and greatly influential politicians and analysts including International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol, EWEA’s 2013 Annual Event hit the renewable energy headlines this year.

It was the event at which Birol called fossil fuel subsidies “public enemy number one”, while Christian Kjaer EWEA’s CEO drew attention to the €470 billion the EU paid for fossil fuel imports last year, and the time when industry CEOs were honest about the impact of the financial and economic crisis on their company’s fortunes.

Speaking from Vienna, Pat Rabbitte, Irish Energy Minister, called for a fresh EU renewable energy target to replace the current one which expires in 2020 of 45% by 2030 – and so did Anni Podimata, Vice President of the European Parliament. Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich said that his country aims to be 100% energy self-sufficient by 2050, while Hasan Murat Mercan, Turkey’s Deputy Energy Minister, spoke of high wind energy ambitions and a rapidly growing sector.

One message that emerged loud and clear from the conference: governments must ensure stable support schemes for wind energy, leaving behind the days of retroactive changes to support schemes and long-running uncertainty over changes to regulations affecting the sector. From politicians to CEOs, high-level speakers hammered this call home. This blog reported on two specific examples of on-going national-level uncertainty in France and Spain.

While people attending the conference sounded notes of caution in particular for 2013 and 2014, others said the sector must not forget the massive progress made and growth achieved over the last decade.

EWEA’s annual statistics released last Friday echo these sentiments: in 2012 some 11.6 GW of wind capacity were installed in Europe, up from 9.6 GW in 2011, but Kjaer said he expected changes in government support to be behind a fall in new installations this year and next. Read the full breakdown here.

Despite the predicted fall in installation, many attendees pointed out that the wind energy business remains robust: “the quality of people that have come into our stand interested in our new products mean that the year ahead will be successful for us,” Barton Merle-Smith, Director of Business Development at NRG Systems, said. Ioannis Panourgias, Managing Director of 2EN SA, said “2EN has been to the EWEA Annual Event as an exhibitor for the last eight years and this is the best yet.

EWEA 2013 was also the event at which “emerging markets” were buzz words. Attendees spoke of the opportunities in countries like Romania and Turkey where onshore wind markets are growing at a pace and appetite for new openings is high – a theme the latest Wind Directionsmagazine published at EWEA 2013 delves deep into. This trend is also reflected by the fact that on the exhibition floor there were many exhibitors from countries like Poland and Romania seeking to rub shoulders and do business with the sectors biggest players from mature markets.

EWEA employees working on the EWEA stand also reported how EWEA’s freshly launched report on emerging markets containing a detailed break-down of all the most promising central and eastern European wind energy markets and beyond flew off the shelves. It is also available for download here.

Despite the crisis and the tough impact it is having both directly via the market and indirectly via policy changes, EWEA 2013 also noted that there are an abundance of jobs available in the sector, especially in operations and maintenance. In fact, unless these and other positions are filled, wind energy faces a 15,000 skilled job shortage by 2030.

The event in Vienna ended on a more emotional note with soon-to-be outgoing EWEA CEO Christian Kjaer congratulating Arthouros Zervos – EWEA President who steps down from the post this year – for his achievements for wind energy. “It is hard to know where to begin to describe [Zervos’] achievements. They are not limited to one area of work, or one organisation. They span education, science, R&D, policy making, representation of the industry and lobbying,” Kjaer said.

And now, with this year’s EWEA Annual Event in Vienna over, we are looking ahead to more of EWEA’s events – widely recognised as the highest quality events in the wind industry


By Zoë Casey, http://www.ewea.org/blog