An expensive subsidised niche

The industry is having a global conference in Paris. But we don't have a global industry to speak of, yet. In the scheme of things we are a subsidised niche with a small handful of global allies. Our fate is in the hands of politicians and the public. If we want the world to switch on to wind we have to deliver an industry wide strategy that can engage the world outside. The global conference is a chance for us all to debate and think about a genuine global market.

Let's all have a drink in Paris, but if we want the world to switch on to wind, we have to deliver an industry-wide

strategy that will engage the outside world. Some serious preparation must be done for the voyage ahead -- the

global wind race

An expensive, subsidised niche

This skipper has moored up in harbour, comfortably sitting back in the sheltered breeze of the wind. Yes, what remarkable good fortune we have had recently; drop anchor and break out the champagne? The Windicator is set on maximum dial. Surely there are no storm clouds on the horizon.

Plenty of time to jump in the tender, row ashore for a social round of networking from colleagues to competitors, not to mention the beautiful city of Paris. Our industry is having a global conference, you know. Wait a moment. Hold the tender. A global conference? That's very interesting. We don't have a global industry to speak of, yet. We have perhaps four notable market countries, the rest is small scale -- and all of these resting on continued government goodwill and public backing.

In the global scheme of things, we are an expensive, subsidised niche industry with a small handful of global allies. The twin drivers of our industry are environment and energy demand. And that means our fate is largely in the hands of the capricious world of politicians and the public, as so many events in wind's history bear witness.

The simple truth is that if we want the world to switch on to wind we have to deliver an industry-wide strategy that can engage the outside world. It has to be compelling, listened to and acted upon. Talking among ourselves is not going to deliver. As Vestas recently said, we have a fantastic story to tell yet are leaving it up to Greenpeace to tell it.

Nobody can buy a fuel cell car today, yet everybody has heard of them. You see them in big newspaper adverts (unlike wind turbines). The famous, fabulous fuel cell has sprung to worldwide fame in the last two years -- the "car that runs on water" has driven in to save the planet. Yet there are only 25 MW of expensive prototypes in existence, compared to our nearly 25,000 MW. Fuel cells are decades away from any meaningful impact on energy or transport infrastructure, yet nevertheless hog the limelight, putting us in the shadow. In the global race for hearts and minds, fuel cells have left us in the dust.

Paris is an exciting high-point in our history. Wind power is ready to take on the world. But is the world listening to us? Not yet, but they could be. The global conference is a chance for us all to debate and think about a genuine global market. As our flotilla converges in Paris and we prepare our boats for the coming year, this Helmsman suggests that we all ask ourselves three key questions: What would a global wind industry really look like? What actions do we need to take to achieve it? What can I do to contribute to this?

Now there'sâ a challenge. We are heading into uncharted waters, and in that environment, as every sailor knows, complacent skippers can sink ships. So let's have a drink in Paris (we do deserve it). But let's also do some serious preparation for the coming journey -- the global wind race. We are, when all is said and done, sitting in the same boat, aren't we?

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