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Peter RaeAfter wishing all readers a very ‘Happy New Year’ both from the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) and from me as its President, I want to pose the question: What is the point of big conferences? My reply is given particularly in relation to WWEA’s 2016 conference, which was held in Tokyo late last year under the skilful organising chairmanship of Prof. Chuichi Arakawa of the University of Tokyo.

By Peter Rae, President of the World Wind Energy Association, Australia

One point of a conference such as WWEA 2016 is to develop ideas and transfer information in relation to the technology of wind power. At the conference we succeeded in this and there were some excellent presentations, posters and papers.

Opportunity is also given for the often ‘quiet research and thinking’ of academics and professionals to be put forward and receive an assessment from their contemporaries. In this case over 500 people from across the world attended. And at a time of public debate in relation to future energy sources in the country it was pleasing that the attendees included three Vice-Ministers from the Japanese Government.

However, there is also the exchange of information in relation to the international elements of the politics of the ‘rollover to renewables’. While the technology and its rapid development is vital, so too is the development of the understanding of the urgency for action to achieve sustainability in energy generation and lifestyle. In this the exchange of ideas, facts and programmes is vital but equally important is the development of the political will to act.

The successes, the failures, the best method of input, the celebration of success – are all matters to be discussed, compared and, as appropriate to different circumstances, adopted. But the essential consequence is the creation of the political will for action to implement the resulting policies.

The 2015 Paris COP Agreement on Climate, together with the adoption of the mitigating role of renewables, was executed by 195 nations agreeing to take action. This action will require significant change in the way the people of the world live in their very different social and economic circumstances. Already 121 nations representing 83% of emissions have ratified the agreement. This was the product of the creation, in particular through conferences over the past 11 years, of the political will to act.

The WWEA makes an annual award to acknowledge and draw attention to a significant achievement affecting the wind industry and for 2016 the Board decided that the single most important matter was the Paris Agreement.

The question then was who to get to physically receive the award. We thought of the UN Secretary General, the Chair of the Paris COP and many others but then, recognising that it is the youth of the world and those who follow for whom the greatest benefit will derive, we decided to invite the youngest representative present to accept the award on behalf of the youth of the world. However, we did add the condition that he report next year on the progress made in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Hopefully, there will be a positive report.

The WWEA’s personal achievement award was presented to wind industry world renowned Prof. Izumi Ushiyama of the Ashikaga Institute of Technology in Japan in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of the wind industry. I felt privileged to make both these presentations.