The General for the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) is a hybrid association that represents companies and regional associations from around the world. As a global voice, its members include companies like GE and Clipper from the U.S., as well as many within Europe. As the GWEC’s General Secretary, Steve Sawyer is privy to vital information on this the fast-growing industry.
What is your key role as Secretary General?
The majority of my time is spent representing the wind energy industry at climate change conferences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). My position allows me to more easily raise awareness of the benefits of renewable energy, such as climate change mitigation, reduced energy costs and more jobs.
Why is wind energy more prominent in Europe than the U.S.?
The motivation for renewable energy is a bit different. It is a higher priority within the European Union (EU) for several reasons, namely a desire to end our dependence on Russia’s temperamental oil supply as well as a push by member countries to reduce emissions. In the U.S., this has not been a high priority but is slowly changing.
Where have you seen drastic change in renewable energy?
In the past few years the position of the IEA (International Energy Agency) has rapidly changed. A few years ago they would say that renewable energy was only a small portion of energy creation and that would never change, either because of location or cost. However, they now say that it is inevitable that renewable energy will be a major energy source in the next 20 to 30 years. This recognition is slowly trickling down to country governments, and my goal is to accelerate that process.
What do you see for the near future?
This year is the “year of the climate,” with the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. The Kyoto Protocol (a multi-country agreement to reduce green house gases) ends in 2012, so negotiations are ramping up that will bring the U.S. on board.
How has wind energy evolved?
Eight years ago, there was little experience with cap and trade. However, now we see how it works, and it has been very successful. Market mechanisms have been around for a long time, but now we realize that goals are met quicker and at a lower cost this way.
Where is renewable energy growing the fastest?