Overcoming adversity


March 2, 2012

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According to the Guardian this week, wind energy firms considering investment in the UK are shelving their plans over concern at the Government’s commitment to windpower.

The paper canvassed opinions from GE, Vestas and Gamesa, amongst others, to ascertain if the current back bench revolt by a number of Tory MPs, which looks to be weakening the resolve of the Conservative coalition partners for onshore wind, would cause them to reduce or remove their UK investments.

The feedback has already turned heads but at what point does the climate shift from being merely uncertain to unfavourable?

Yes, onshore wind is set to lose out from 2013 under the revised ROC banding, and the planning reforms promised are still some way off. However, there is still some way to go before the UK could ever be seen as hostile to the sector.

And given that the Government has a duty to listen to its electorate, many of whom do oppose onshore wind, there should be an awareness that these firms support what is to some an essentially controversial industry.

There is also a perception issue – wind businesses should be wary that they don’t appear to be blackmailing the Government over future employment. With some of these firms suggesting that they would remove their investments, and with them employment hopes for many, because their future portfolio may be reduced, is to akin to the bargaining seen in the arms industry – not a model best followed.

Of course any industry can claim that a certain political climate is making its job harder – and even Germany has had its fair share of problems this week as the impact of changes to the Renewable Energy Act unsteady investors.

However, surely the real impetus should be for the sector to work to overcome adversity through better communication and articulation of its benefits?

In practice this means addressing two key elements. First, it means fighting back against those who argue that it is over subsidised and over reliant on government support. And second, it means making better use of existing data to highlight the future costs of an economy based exclusively on oil, natural gas and indeed nuclear supplies.

Moreover, by not tackling the issues at the root, we’re in danger of moving backwards, not forwards. Something that only reinforces classic industry myths and falsehoods.

By acknowledging that these are tough times, and by hedging risks in mature markets with new prospects, partaking in debate at the highest level and by innovating, to further lower costs, will ultimately turn the tide. In the short term though, it means that we as an industry need to hold firm.

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