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EWEA's Opinion

EWEA's opinion: Choosing a path to the future as the economic crisis winds down

28.08.2009

As if to make up for summer’s relentlessly unwelcome march into autumn, barely a day goes by without a barrage of positive news stories heralding the beginning of the end of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Perhaps the most upbeat message was delivered last week by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke who reportedly declared that economic activity around the world appears to be “levelling out,” and “the prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good.”

According to Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail, Bernanke’s upbeat speech at an annual Fed conference in Wyoming was consistent with the central bank’s earlier observations, yet he warned that the situation is not yet back to normal.

Indeed, the newspaper said he stressed that despite much progress in stabilising financial markets and trying to bust through credit clogs, consumers and businesses are still having trouble getting loans.

Concurring, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said he was a “little bit uneasy” about talk of a return to normality.

“We know that we have an enormous amount of work to do and we should be as active as possible,” Trichet was quoted as saying.

The Globe and Mail also noted that the comments by Bernanke and Trichet come two years after the global financial crisis broke out and nearly one year after it had deepened to the point of sending the US, the world’s largest economy, into a near meltdown.

According to the newspaper, Bernanke also said that the recession had proved that global cooperation in battling the crisis was crucial, with central banks slashing interest rates and governments delivering fiscal stimulus.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) congratulates governments for working together to help ease the fiscal pain that has mercilessly whipsawed international economies.

But EWEA also believes that if governments can cooperate on the economy, they can also cooperate on climate change and developing renewable energies like wind power. To their credit, some nations are already doing so.

Half a world away from last week’s Wyoming conference, the Australian parliament passed a law demanding that 20% of the country’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. News reports indicated that the new law in Australia would quadruple the renewable energy target set by the previous government in 2001 and provide enough clean electricity to power the households of all 21 million Australians. Although a step in the right direction, this is less ambitious than the EU’s ground-breaking 20% energy target, which translates into around 35% of electricity from renewables.

Europe is deservedly at the forefront of using wind power and other renewable energies to mitigate climate change, jump-start the moribund economy and lay down the seeds for a new, green energy revolution. However, it is important to remind policy makers that Australia, the US, China and other countries are also pulling out of the economic quagmire by stimulating the renewables sector.

Increasing international competition means Europe needs to do even more to further develop, and reap the considerable benefits from, wind power and other renewables.

The most efficient way to do that now is for the banking sector, which has been bailed out by European governments, to urgently and dramatically increase its lending to wind power projects. In this way, it will help support an industry that is both a proven source of local, affordable, sustainable green electricity, and a guiding path to the future.

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