Learning, and meeting new friends and old, at WINDPOWER
I always learn a lot at WINDPOWER, the American Wind Energy Association’s annual conference. The conference — the largest wind energy conference in the Western Hemisphere — also gives me a chance to get reacquainted with old friends, and make some new ones.
Those of us with ENGIE had an extra opportunity to meet friends this year at WINDPOWER, in Houston in late May, as we hosted a party for conference delegates at a local brewery. And as always, the conference itself offered plenty of insights into the strength and the promise of the wind industry in the U.S. Here are five things we learned at WINDPOWER 2019:
1. Wind power is on the rise
The power capacity of installed wind turbines in the U.S. is reaching some lofty heights. Through the first quarter of 2019, the installed wind capacity nationwide was more than 97 gigawatts (GW), AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan pointed out in his welcoming speech at WINDPOWER. That’s more than double what it was eight years ago. Kiernan added that another 39 GW of wind capacity is under construction or in advanced development in the U.S.
“That’s like building (the wind capacity of) Texas, Iowa and California all over again,” Kiernan told WINDPOWER attendees.
One gigawatt is enough to power about 700,000 homes.
2. Wind’s economic boost to communities is huge, and growing.
Kiernan also pointed out the wind industry is now providing more than $1 billion in annual economic support to communities across the U.S. — most of that through tax or other payments to state and local governments. Beyond that, the industry provides more than $250 million annually in land-use payments to landowners.
In 2018, the industry also broke a record in total employment, Kiernan said — employing more than 114,000 people in all 50 states.
3. People are increasingly jazzed about carbon pricing
In his welcoming address, Kiernan also spoke about something that is vitally important to ENGIE: carbon pricing and the dreams of a carbon-free energy future. Kiernan said he sees increased political interest in some form of carbon pricing in the U.S. Various methods of placing a price on carbon emissions can significantly decrease those emissions, helping the world fight climate change. Carbon pricing also means that renewable forms of energy that emit little or no carbon — including wind power — become much less expensive and attractive by comparison.
“Fortunately, politicians in D.C. and the states and around the world are talking about carbon more than ever before,” Kiernan said in his speech to WINDPOWER delegates. “On the Left, you have the Green New Deal. On the Right, more productive conversations than we’ve ever had before. The future of our industry, the future of the clean grid, the future of our economy [and] the future of our planet will depend upon our success in working with our partners to implement solutions to these problems.”
Those are ENGIE’s beliefs exactly. We help lead the world in offering customers a range of renewable options — including wind, solar, hydroelectricity and biomass. Through these solutions and others, we are committed to creating a zero-carbon future.
4. Renewables overtaking conventional power? Believe it
Max Cohen, associate director of IHS Markit, an analytics firm, told delegates he sees wind and solar combining to capture 25 percent of all electricity production in the continental U.S. by 2040. Cohen was part of a panel of industry experts speaking about the future of renewables at WINDPOWER. He also predicted that solar energy by itself would make up 9 percent of all electric power in the continental U.S. by 2040, and that coal would slip to about 6 percent.
Cohen’s predictions might even be conservative, compared to what other experts around the nation are predicting. A Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report in April found that for the first time ever, renewable energy has surpassed coal in total energy generating capacity in the U.S. All forms of renewable energy now make up 21.56 percent of generating capacity, compared to 21.55 percent for coal. (Wind is at 8.25 percent of all generating capacity.)
Looking at FERC’s numbers and projections, some experts say renewable sources of energy could make up 25 percent of capacity in the U.S. by as early as 2022.
5. ENGIE knows how to party!
But not everything at WINDPOWER was about reports and numbers. ENGIE also hosted our party at WINDPOWER — at Houston’s Eighth Wonder Brewery — that was a fun exclamation point to the conference, and helped introduce our new brand to the U.S. marketplace. Many of our wind industry colleagues know us from our Infinity Renewables team, which became part of ENGIE early last year. So it was a coming-out party of sorts for us.
We’ll expect to get to know everyone even better at future AWEA events. Tom Kiernan announced at WINDPOWER that next year’s event will transform into a broader event — called CLEANPOWER — that will bring together representatives from the wind power, solar power and energy storage industries. That’s a perfect fit for ENGIE, as we continue to lead the way in providing renewable energy options — and lead the world toward a carbon-free future.