Sector's performance during crisis gives reasons to be cheerful

There are good grounds for optimism for the future of the global wind power industry.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly not run its course, but the sector has rapidly adapted to the changes demanded by the greatest public health crisis in over a century, and has proved its worth in taking over a greater share of electricity generation in this new age of lockdowns and home-working.

Wind industry veteran Ditlev Engel, a former head of Vestas and now CEO of DNV GL, provides a clear-headed view of what lies ahead for wind energy. The most important thing the industry can do right now, he says, is convince policymakers that wind-turbine technology, smart-grid systems, and enhanced storage capacity are at the stage of development where they can be trusted to play a leading role in cleaning up electricity generation reliably and economically.

Engel describes himself as technologically optimistic but regulatory pessimistic, which is perhaps another way of saying much the same thing. We have the technology; now we need the political will, financial impetus and regulatory framework to make it happen.

The pessimism, however, is all too easy to understand when substantial parts of the US west coast go up in flames, and the country’s president attributes it to bad forest management rather than global heating. Or when Poland opts for nuclear power to fill the gap left by retiring coal plants when renewables could do the job at less than half the price. Or when Australia’s federal administration pins its hopes (and substantial investment) on carbon capture and storage in a forlorn effort to prop up its coal industry.

Or when the UK appoints the climate change-denier and former Australian PM Tony Abbott — ousted by his own party rather than the ballot box — to advise on trade agreements as the UK cuts its ties with the European Union. The UK’s feeble response to the responsibility of hosting the COP-26 climate conference hardly inspires confidence in the country’s commitment either.

But let’s stick with the optimistic message for now. The pandemic has given the case for greater deployment of renewables a big shove in the right direction. Our selected reports — further countries will be covered online due to space limitations in the first printed edition of Windpower Monthly since April — largely paint a positive picture for wind-power development. Sure, there are still some dinosaurs in the policymaker ranks — but they are doomed to extinction.

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