Question of the Week: What needs to change?

WORLDWIDE: With the appointment this month of the energy commissioners for the EU, Windpower Monthly asked Paolo Frankl of the International Energy Agency, Peter Dickson of Glennmont Partners and Joe Phillips of DNV GL what they would like to see change for the wind industry.

Question: What would you change to allow the wind industry to flourish further?

Paolo Frankl, head of the Renewable Energy Division of the IEA

Wind power contributes significantly to the nearly 45% increase in global renewable electricity generation the IEA foresees by 2020, with onshore wind alone providing 31% of total growth. But that requires three basic policies: a predictable policy framework, reasonable pricing and development of flexible power systems.

Unanticipated changes to incentive schemes represent an unmanageable risk for investors. Topping the list of best-practice policy principles in our new Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report is a predictable policy framework that is part of an overall energy strategy. Such a framework must provide a portfolio of incentives based on technology and market maturity, be dynamic, with monitoring of national and global trends, and tackle such non-economic barriers as retroactive policy changes.

A critical economic element of that policy framework is reasonable pricing. Capital-intensive technologies, such as wind power, can require policy incentives. But costs are falling over time, so expansion of wind power hinges more on a market context that assures a reasonable and predictable return.

Finally, our 2014 book The Power of Transformation determined that to incorporate sizeable shares of variable energy into the grid requires flexible power systems. So we need policies that encourage large interconnections, with wind plants spread over large geographic regions, and better grids, with more storage where appropriate and more demand side response.

Peter Dickson - Technical director, Glennmont Partners

What I'd like to see change in the wind industry is the attitude among people that generating power from the wind is a costly, nice-to-have environmental luxury provided by an industry populated by revolutionary tree huggers.

This attitude has been allowed to exist since the beginning of the industrialisation of wind power and for many years it served the industry well as financial security allowed people to put climate change at the top of their priorities. But now financial realism means that people are reassessing their priorities and it's time that the wind industry stood up for what it really provides: economic diversification; energy security in an uncertain world; and a hedge against volatile prices of power from conventional sources.

In the past the debate around wind energy was too often pitched around wind versus conventional power, or wind versus nuclear. The reality is that the power industry needs diversification and all sources of power have their place in a modern integrated network. In a future without subsidy, and hopefully without other market distortions, the relative values of wind and other sources of power will be clear and the hippy-like image of the wind industry will finally be buried.

Joe Phillips – Head of renewables strategy and policy services, DNV GL

I would particularly like to see offshore wind claim victory in the war on cost. To do this, we need to employ three strategies. First, we need to "do it right". This means reducing risk and preventing mistakes. Too many projects are being delivered late and over budget. We must get the basics right to reduce the cost of capital and contingency.

Second, we need to "do it better". This means improving the efficiency of existing processes. Shaving just an hour from the cycle-time of a single installation operation can have a tangible impact on the cost of energy. Smarter site planning, such as installing greater generation capacity offshore than the grid connection onshore (overplanting) can drive down levelised costs by around 0.5%.

Third, we need to "do it differently". This means bringing new innovation to market. Industry has made great strides here in the last couple of years, but there is plenty more to be done. In the short-term we have demonstrated through our Project FORCE initiative what can be achieved by taking an integrated approach wind turbine and supporting structure design.

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