When I started at NRG Systems in 1999, I was immediately struck by the global destinations for our orders. A company of 20 people in Hinesburg, Vermont was shipping products to nearly every continent and multiple countries. I started keeping a list of where we were shipping. I counted over 10 countries in my first week. We reached milestones #50 (Israel) pretty quickly and #100 (Mali) in 2003.
The journey from country #100 to #150 has taken longer, one distant land at a time, many of them islands that are eager to have an indigenous source of energy and to take steps to begin to confront the specter of climate change—Nauru, Faroe Islands, Kiribati, Timor-Leste. This week we reached country #150, a place in the heart of Africa and as different from Vermont as one can imagine: Chad. (Our partner on this project is the experienced French energy company Valorem Energie).The world has between 175 and 210 countries, depending on whom you ask. Currently there are 193 United Nations member states. Interestingly, athletes from 204 entities will compete in the London summer Olympics. Do sports trump nationalism?
How did NRG reach this milestone? Back in the 80s, long before my time here, the global wind market was centered on California. Then Ronald Reagan cut all subsidies to renewables (along with federal funding for research and development), and the market moved to Europe. To stay competitive, we had to hone our exporting and shipping processes, reducing lead times and of course developing the right products for an evolving industry. Today we ship about half of our products overseas.
What do I take from the ever-growing international market for wind? More and more countries are turning to wind as an indigenous, viable and widely available energy source, unlike oil, coal or uranium, which are found beneath some countries and not others. In fact, last year was a record-breaking year for renewable energy, with Asia and Africa growing quickly—in spite of the economic recession.