Interview: WindEurope CEO on priorities for 2016


April 15, 2016

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The European Wind Energy Association last week re-branded as WindEurope. We talked to chief executive Giles Dickson on the reasons for the change and the association’s priorities for 2016.

Why has EWEA become WindEurope?

It’s fairly simple. The association has been around for 34 years and started off as a niche body. Now we are a very large industry and a mainstream part of the electricity market in Europe. Our companies generate €67bn of turnover a year. The industry has transformed, and it is only right that we as the industry body should evolve too.

How long have you been planning this?

We have spent the last two years evolving. The change of name comes at the end of that process. We have reformed our internal workings, we now have a more efficient and effective governance structure, we involve our members more actively in the day-to-day workings of the association, and we collaborate with other industry groups that have on the face of it little to do with renewables.

For example, last week we signed an agreement on flexible electricity markets, and that was not just with our usual allies:
the renewables associations. It was with the smart grid lobby,
the storage associations, the gas industry, and the paper and packaging industry. Our new name shows that we are a modern and mainstream industry body, and that the wind industry makes
a key contribution to the European economy.

But EWEA was a well-known and respected name. Were you nervous about losing it?

No, we were not, because we knew it was the right thing to do. But you’re right, when you change your name you’ve got to work hard to make sure everyone recognises the new name. One doesn’t do these things lightly.

Is the flexible grid your main lobbying goal for 2016?

We are looking at proposals on the design of the electricity market to support renewables. We need flexible electricity markets as these are a route to a functioning wholesale market, which can reduce costs for consumers, for households and industrial users.

And you are also lobbying for a 30% renewables target.

On the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, we are calling for a collective binding EU target of 30%, which we think is the right level. Historically, the EU has been the number one in renewables, and that is the stated aim of President Juncker.

However, as it stands, Europe is not number one in renewables, so we’ve got to work hard to take that position back.

How are you measuring that?

We are no longer number one in terms of size of the market. China installed three times as many turbines as the EU last year; and has overtaken Europe in terms of installed capacity for wind. China has a very strong wind industry. Europe is still competing with Chinese companies in markets like South America, Africa and South Asia, but if our home markets do not remain strong then it will be very difficult for the European industry to match the progress that the Chinese industry will be making in reducing costs. Scale is key to further cost reductions, and it’s all about cost-competitiveness.

As of today, only six out of 28 EU member states have clear policies and commitments in place for renewables beyond 2020, but businesses are planning beyond 2020 already.

What are WindEurope’s other lobbying priorities?

Investor protection is a very important one. We think the EU can and should be doing more to protect investors. We are proposing that there should be an EU process of arbitration and dispute resolution, so that investors do not have to take their cases to Washington as they’ve had to on the Spanish feed-in tariff cuts.

And we are also involved with national policy issues where there is an EU angle, like the radar issue in France and the new draft law on onshore wind in Poland.

Do you look much at the risk of Brexit?

We only worry about the things we can influence. That’s a matter for the UK people.

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