The Importance of CanWEA

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is a vital voice for the wind industry. It is essential that anyone who has aspirations in the wind business join, and if possible, attend the annual conference. It is held in Winnipeg this year – very appropriate since the Manitoba government has announced intentions to install 1000 MW of wind above and beyond their current 100 MW.

I was President of the association in 2002/03, I suppose because nobody else would take the job. It certainly wasn’t my extensive wind experience that got me the position! We were small, and we were all volunteers. But we had a good base, and good history. My immediate predecessor, Guy Painchaud, had run a tight ship. The organization was solvent. Guy’s predecessor, Fred Gallagher, had done an outstanding job of cultivating Federal contacts, and these contacts paid off for both Guy and I. We had Janice as an executive assistant, but we had no other staff. The Board had discussed taking the “beau risque” of hiring a full time President, but we had not yet taken the plunge. Several on the Board had concerns about funding.

The job of volunteer President was a big one. The industry was small – there was less than 250 MW of installed capacity in Canada, compared to today’s 1050 MW. We had no proactive media strategy, but we responded to queries. So I had numerous media interviews as issues arose. We organized “lobby days” to educate the Federal bureaucracy, political advisors, and politicians on the potential of wind energy. We did not have the resources to engage provincially. I and some other members engaged in Ontario, but CanWEA did not have resources to assist. We had to organize the annual conference, seek sponsors, and find a location. I was blessed to have Sue Aris on the board, my successor as President, a fireball who organized the Pincher Creek conference. The financial success of this conference was the catalyst that gave the Board the confidence to hire a full time President the following year (i.e. a “real” president).  We hired Robert Hornung. Members of the associaton know how important Robert has been to implementing our strategies. Now we have a communications plan. A media plan. Skilled staff who help out with the provincial caucuses and strategies. We influence policy decisions, by providing information, at both Federal and Provincial levels. And CanWEA offers outstanding education opportunities for new entrants and veterans alike with their conferences, workshops, and seminars.

One of the important initiatives I took as President was to insist on a Board retreat. This was a face to face meeting of the Board – the first ever. Budgets did not allow it previously. One of the things I was clear on, and which the board discussed and agreed to, was that CanWEA supports “all wind all the time”. We support micro wind that would be installed at a home or farm. We support large wind, that would be installed by a large company. We support community wind, installed by a co-operative, or a group of farmers. We have a big tent. It is gratifying that there are echos of this philosophy from current board members today. This is something that wind energy associations in other countries have sometimes failed to implement, and they are weaker because of it.
Of course, “all wind all the time” makes perfect sense. After all, the installation of wind energy is today, and always will be, entirely dependant on government policy. So the wind industry is in this together. We share more common interest in getting the rules right, than we have differences as competitors. Whether it is net metering, Requests for Proposal, truly open markets, Wind Power Production Incentives, standard offer contracts, or market rules, we depend on governments to make conditions right for wind energy. In the past, governments have not made it right. Today, it is better, but there is still improvement needed.

And that is why if you are interested in entering the wind industry, you must join, support, and participate in CanWEA. And you should attend their October conference if you can. You will learn a lot, and the industry as a whole will be stronger if we all work in unison toward our common good.
At the Pincher Creek conference, Anne Marie Howe, a representative of Wind Power Monthly, the bible of the worldwide wind industry, said to me as she observed the energy of the delegates at the conference: “CanWEA is special.”  She of course attends conferences all over the place, so I would think she knows.  And I think what she meant was that we had a remarkable ability to work together toward a common cause.  Me, I don’t think that is special.  That’s Canadian.
Join CanWEA.  And attend the conference.

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