EWEA President Arthouros Zervos and the Global Wind Day 2009
Around the world on June 15 people will gather to celebrate the immense power and potential of wind energy, a natural, plentiful, non-polluting and free element that can greatly assist humankind as it begins the necessary transformation towards a de-carbonised future.
The first Global Wind Day promises to enchant participants with conferences, parties, wind farm open days and photo contests. It will also demonstrate that wind power and other renewable energies are a solution to three of society’s greatest problems – a diminishing energy supply, the moribund economy and the beleaguered environment.
Most everyone knows by now that the world is on the cusp of a complex conundrum driven by population growth, decreasing amounts of energy available for an expanding middle class and the frightening shadow of global warming. Today’s financial crisis serves to amplify this unwelcome witch’s brew.
But by embracing renewables and allowing them the same long-term incentives and stable regulatory assistance that fossil fuel industries have long enjoyed, policy makers can develop predictable, sustainable, affordable and local energy supplies.
As an anti-dote to the economic doldrums we find ourselves in, full-scale engagement with renewables will create new high-technology jobs that feed off of the latest research which can also benefit other segments of society. The European renewables industry alone already has an annual turnover of €45 billion and employs more than 450,000 people. A recent REN21 report shows annual global investment in new renewable energy capacity nearly doubled from $63 billion US in 2006 to $120 billion in 2008.
Lastly, it must be recognised that renewables can play a significant role in mitigating climate change caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Europe’s largest onshore wind farm, the recently-completed 322-MW Whitelee project near Glasgow, is expected to power 180,000 homes and displace the equivalent of 500,000 tonnes of CO₂ a year.
I first began to think about the power of wind as a young boy on Corfu when Greece was still a developing nation. I have spent my entire adult life studying wind and learning about its many benefits. Along the way, my research expanded to include all renewable energies as together they form a powerful portfolio of technologies providing electricity, heating, cooling and alternatives to fossil fuels for transport.
Today, I am one of four candidates for the position of Interim Director-General of IRENA, the newly-formed International Renewable Energy Agency, which will promote the use of renewables globally as society says its final goodbye to fossil fuels.
This is what I know: Humans already have the proven technology to undergo this needed metamorphosis. What is lacking is the unified political will to make this seismic change occur. If enough of us demand the urgent change that is required, politicians will act.
Let’s not allow politicians with narrow national interests to divert the human race from making this overdue transformation, of turning our backs on the business-as-usual approach which, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution nearly 150 years ago, has involved burning so many fossil fuels that we are literally raising the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere to unsustainable levels.
By all means, go out and have fun on Global Wind Day.
But also think about our collective future, of our children and grandchildren. Together we can achieve a future driven by wind power, solar power and the entire gamut of remarkable renewable energies which can help heal the planet.
It’s up to us.
Arthouros Zervos is President of the European Wind Energy Association, the Global Wind Energy Council and the European Renewable Energy Council. He is also a professor at the National Technical University of Athens.