Gabriel Alonso, the CEO of EDP Renewables and incoming chairman of the board of directors at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), laid out a five-point plan to ensure the wind industry's viability and sustainability during the opening general session of WINDPOWER 2013, being held this week in Chicago.
In a commanding presentation, which at times turned humorous, Alonso told a rapt audience how each of them can play a role to ensure the industry's success.
Coming off a record-breaking year in 2012, Alonso said that attendees should not resign themselves to a down year.
"The building blocks are in place for the industry to continue writing its ongoing story of success," he said, citing the recently released "begin construction" guidance for what it means for a wind project to have started construction.
In order for the wind industry to continue its success, Alonso called on attendees to be active in the development of projects. He cited 8 GW in annual installed capacity as a ballpark figure that the industry must continue to meet.
He also urged attendees to do the following:
Strengthen AWEA. Citing the positive regulatory and legislative work done by AWEA, Alonso called on attendees to support the association. "We need to strengthen AWEA," he said.
Communicate proactively. "We need to take back our brand and control our message," he explained. "Our brand got diluted."
Establish a long-term plan. "We need a long-term plan with short-, medium- and long-range actions to better align wind industry goals with that of state and federal policy," he said.
Maintain unity. While other industries may have numerous affiliations, Alonso maintained that the wind industry is fortunate because it can speak singularly. "When we are united and speak with one voice, we are in a better position to communicate our message," he said. "We need to take better advantage of that."
Recruit the public. "We need to recruit the 75 percent of Americans who say they want more wind energy," he said. "Don't outsource your message to me or your CEO." Alonso added that developers and suppliers are in a better position to deliver their message locally, where it could have a bigger impact.
Next, Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, took the stage and related how Iowa benefited from stable policy.
In 1983, Branstad signed the first renewable portfolio standard, which he credited for Iowa's ascension to the top of the wind energy rankings by state.
Iowa ranks third behind Texas and California in total installations, he said, "despite not being nearly their size." He also noted that Iowa currently receives 24.5% of its electric generation through wind power – the highest average of any U.S. state.
"I'm a firm believer in an all-of-the-above energy policy, which is often paid lip service by politicians on both sides of the aisle," he said.
Other speeches included a pre-recorded video message from new Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and an in-person welcome from Rahm Emanuel, Chicago mayor and former chief of staff to President Barack Obama.
Emanuel spoke of Chicago's strong wind industry ties: The Windy City is home to at least 13 wind-related developers and manufacturers.
As "America's Inland Port," Chicago is rebuilding its infrastructure with an eye toward energy efficiency efforts to develop more LEED-certified buildings, Emanuel told attendees. He added that the city recently closed its last two coal plants – which prompted spontaneous applause from the audience.
In addition, he noted that Illinois-based Argonne National Laboratory is playing a leading role in energy storage. The facility is one of the U.S. Department of Energy's largest national laboratories for scientific and engineering research, and it is among the first institutions to study electric batteries and energy storage.