(from remarks delivered at AWEA’s annual
WINDPOWER 2016 conference in New Orleans, LA)
Generation Wind – Building a Bridge to America’s Clean Energy Future
My challenge today is to put this moment in context. And to do that, I need to get big picture. I mean really big picture. We’re going start with the caveman.
Where do we find ourselves in the arc of human progress.
Progress has always been about mastering the physical world.
The plow modernized agriculture.
The aqueduct created urbanization.
Steam power created the industrial revolution.
The 40 ft. shipping container accelerated globalization.
Sustainability is the next chapter in human progress, and the key is making renewable technology economic.
The benefits are:
Moving from scarcity to abundance.
Changing from destructive to creative.
Shifting from resource constrained to technology enabled.
So let’s discuss the sustainability Paradigm Shift: Moving the energy industry from resource constrained to technology enabled.
Historically the energy industry has been focused on extraction of scarce resources: Out of the ground, refining, and shipping them to the markets.
For renewables the logic is clear…renewables are free and don’t have to be extracted.
While our fuel is free, our customers know, the machines aren’t free.
The challenge is to make renewable technology so cheap that it’s the obvious choice.
How do we harvest the wind, and the sun, smarter and more economically?
Technology innovation makes renewables economic and finite resources obsolete.
These wind and solar solutions are achievable near term.
They’re simply about driving down cost.
The path to achieving sustainability and, therefore human progress, relies on all of us becoming energy analysts.
Energy analysts who understand the levers driving the cost of energy and use those levers to our advantage.
We have just begun this journey, and by the way, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but wind is winning.
And why is wind winning?
I don’t know how many of you are following the NBA Playoffs, but two years ago, no one thought the next dominant team would be the Golden State Warriors. They shocked the world.
They used data analytics to determine the best way to win.
They figured out skill was more important than strength.
They passed the ball better, they defended smarter.
Their pace-and-space game plan and three-point shooting maximized points per possession. Strength to skill; dumb to smart; or just analytical metrics.
Like the Warriors, wind is winning because we’re focusing on the right metrics – in our case, dollars per megawatt-hour.
Everyone in this room has focused on the metric of driving down dollars per megawatt-hour
We’ve driven down costs by technology advancement including longer rotors, taller towers, advanced controls, and product reliability.
We’ve further reduced costs by scaling installations; 42 GWs over the last 5 years.
Investor appetite has grown, also lowering the cost of capital.
And as a result, the real cost of wind power in the US has dropped by more than 60 percent.
In 2015, we proved it.
We had record wind installations. We were the #1 source of new capacity.
Google, Amazon and Facebook made sustainability commitments to 100% renewable energy and contracted for 2 GW of wind.
Despite the court drama around the CPP, states, utilities are still buying simply because it’s economic.
Wind’s time is NOW, and we need to take advantage of it. We need to be thinking bigger – Here’s my goal for us.
I believe that in our lifetime the US can be 80 percent powered by renewables. YES. I said 80 percent.
It’s time for us to claim our share of the market:
Let’s take on the challengers and demonstrate why wind should be the #1 choice.
- Coal is dying, with or without the CPP.
- Natural gas is a heavily subsidized transition fuel, not a solution.
- The duck-curve is proving that solar can’t stand alone.
- And storage has not yet arrived.
So the question now, is, not if, but how.
We should be proud of what we have accomplished, but a day of reckoning is coming, and sooner than we think.
PTC frankly has helped get us here. But let’s be clear… Unless we are cost-competitive, after the phase out, we will face a reckoning: A significantly smaller market of 2GWs per year in 2021.
To successfully cross over this valley, we will need to be able to get to a cost of energy, that beats solar, and gas, without incentives.
Don’t worry. We have a solution:
Let’s just imagine your next big hire – assume her name is Cate.
She is a symbol of Generation Wind.
Cate is an energy analyst architect.
She’s going to help build the bridge over this valley.
She graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and went on to get her MBA.
She knew the PTC bridge was well built, but may come to an end.
She knew solar technology was improving, so she would have to keep up.
She knew the rules of the game were simple; supply and demand; if she could build it cheaply and reliably enough she would win.
She also knew the mindset changes had to include both a holistic qualitative view of where the industry wants to go and a quantitative analytic approach about how to get us there.
She knew she had strong building materials including:
- Improved capacity factor
- Lower Capex
- Lower Opex
- Lower Cost of Capital
So she started out by calling the developers, manufacturers, O&M providers, financiers, and politicians because she knew she couldn’t do it alone.
She worked with all these players together to ensure that she reached the 80% renewable energy goal.
The fact of the matter is every one plays a part. Everyone needs a Cate. Who will be your Cate?
So when we cross the bridge…we will arrive on the right side of history… where energy is cleaner, cheaper and abundant.
What will the right side of history look like?
The right side of history looks like: A broad renewable energy coalition, with wind, solar, and storage working together.
The right side of history looks like: A sustainable industry driven by free-market forces.
The right side of history looks like: Regional market coordination and just-in-time transmission.
The right side of history looks like: Pattern and other developers thriving in an 8-10 GW a year market.
The right side of history looks like: MidAm and other utilities reaching their 100% renewable energy goals.
Again, the right side of history looks like: A world where energy is cleaner, cheaper and abundant.
So I ask you…will Generation Wind show they’ve contributed to bending the arc of human progress?
When I think about the future:
I want to believe that Generation Wind has a problem solving mindset.
I want to believe that Generation Wind won’t let politics get in the way of what’s good for the states and America, business and consumers.
I want to believe that Generation Wind will do a better job than my generation at extending the arc of human progress.
I’m ready to build this bridge. And I believe, you are too.
To replay the video of AWEA Chair Chris Brown’s remarks at WINDPOWER, click on this link.
For more coverage of Chris Brown’s speech, see PTC can fuel bigger US wind boom than thought, says Vestas’ Brown, AWEA board chair: reducing costs key for US wind’s future success and Generation Wind – Building a Bridge to America’s Clean Energy Future.