On Monday, the wet weather and storm-like conditions reflected the mood of many, as delegates arrived in Virginia Beach for AWEA Offshore 2012.
Twelve months since the Baltimore gathering, and even before the start of the opening sessions, industry insiders were questioning how far the market has really moved on.
Sure, state and federal permitting has been ticking along and for others, there’s been some early stage met mast and LIDAR work that’s showing real promise. However, the inescapable fact remains that despite all the investment and all the talk to date, the US still hasn’t set an offshore turbine spinning.
Of course, the recent developments within shale gas haven’t helped. And neither has an impending US election that pulls politicians away from Senate and puts a focus on the polls, as opposed to the true long-term issues of energy and power.
However, for any emerging energy market, these issues should by no means be unexpected. As they’ve been on the horizon for sometime. And as such, for those players committed to the American markets, the power politics should present less of a surprise than many would like to think.
Indeed, industry insiders estimate that over the past ten years, US offshore wind developers have invested over $150m of their own money into getting the market up and running and off the ground. That’s no small change.
And yet despite that investment, there’s still little in the way of tangible operation and construction to show for it.
Yes, the development of a set of much-needed new standards helps and yes, there’s the constant carrot of the next big step waiting around the corner. A fact that Bill Bolling, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia made clear when he repeatedly referenced a series of announcements that are due out between now and the Spring.
However, while all the positive talk keeps on coming, for many, as the months tick by, the bills are mounting up – and as a result, executives are having to ask the question of when that level of commitment will simply have to end.
Within the US offshore market then, the next six months will be watched with interest and will become a growing test of nerve. At the evening receptions and on the conference floor, those players with cards on the table remained bullish and confident.
That’s a level of confidence that is critical to safeguarding the industry’s future success. And is almost as important as any regulatory developments and future permitting and policy approval. If the market is to work, the ambition must remain.
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