The largest wind trade group in the U.S. announced Friday it will officially broaden its mission beyond wind as part of a newly formed industry group.
The American Wind Energy Association, which advocated for that industry and its member companies for over 40 years, will merge with a new organization called the American Clean Power Association. More than 30 member companies from utilities, wind, solar and other new energy industries coalesced to make a trade group “that better represents the renewables industry of today,” the group said Friday.
“AWEA recognizes the value of a broad section of the renewables industry — from wind, solar and other renewable resources, to supporting technologies such as storage and transmission,” the group said in an emailed statement. “Collaboration with our colleagues across different renewable energy industries makes good business sense because success for the renewables energy industry is mutually inclusive of all these technologies working together.”
That collaborative effort will include big renewables developers such as EDF Renewables, manufacturers like Vestas, utilities including Berkshire Hathaway and NextEra Energy — the latter owns Florida Power & Light and Gulf Power Company — and prominent corporate buyers like Google, according to a source familiar with planning efforts for the new group.
The formation of the new trade group comes just ahead of the U.S. presidential election. Democratic nominee Joe Biden has advocated for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035, plus a large-scale build-out of renewables.
AWEA’s board will officially vote on the change in a meeting this month.
SEIA to remain separate
Though AWEA said it will include solar in the effort, the industry’s largest trade group, the Solar Energy Industries Association, was notably absent from the announcement. SEIA plans to work with the group while pursuing its own agenda, President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper told Greentech Media.
SEIA, too, has emphasized a broader approach to its lobbying and advocacy efforts in recent months. Last year, the trade group launched a campaign called the “Solar+ Decade,” striving to push solar to 20 percent of overall electricity generation in the U.S. by 2030 while more explicitly collaborating with industries such as wind and electric transportation.
Though SEIA was approached to join the American Clean Power Association, Hopper said SEIA’s board ultimately felt it could more effectively advocate for solar by remaining a distinct organization.
“There may be times when our interests align with this new trade association, and we’ll work with them. And there may be times when our members really need us to speak up for that independent competitive voice, and we will do that,” said Hopper.
AWEA has long counted investor-owned utilities among its members, and the new organization will as well. As a group, large, investor-owned utilities have sometimes had a contentious relationship with renewables developers. In the past, utilities have perceived distributed solar as a threat to electricity sales and at times advocated for policies that restrict competition from independent power producers, such as support for large-scale solar in the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act.
Despite those historical tensions, the collaboration underscores a growing consensus in the energy industry that renewables will have a central role in the future of grid power. Many large investor-owned utilities, such as Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy, have begun to build out significant renewable portfolios and companies such as Xcel Energy have established carbon-reduction targets. NextEra (which owns FP&L) and Xcel both sit on AWEA’s board.
Last year AWEA changed the name of its annual wind conference to encompass solar and storage as well. Many companies on AWEA’s board, such as NextEra and Ørsted, now emphasize solar alongside wind, the historically dominant renewable technology. And in June, SEIA, AWEA, the Energy Storage Association and the National Hydropower Association announced they will work together on an initiative aiming to ensure that the majority of U.S. electricity is produced from renewables by 2030.