Speakers at the 5th annual Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF-West) focused on the major challenges facing the alternative and clean energy landscape in the U.S. The conference was held in San Francisco, CA on September 27 – 28 and drew senior financiers, investors and clean energy executives from North America, including the private sector, government, and various players in the industry.
What is the context of renewable energy today?
The energy landscape has changed this past year creating uncertainties for the renewable energy domain future. Several factors are at play: There is uncertainty surrounding the up-coming presidential elections, which will determine the clean energy strategy and policy in the U.S. Coupled with that is the impending expiration of several federal incentives such as PTC, ITC and Loan Guarantee programs. Natural gas as a key source has gained traction and prices came low, propelling the industry to rethink the natural gas role in the clean energy portfolio. In addition, the global economy is in crisis, affecting America as well.
Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) since 2007 and a long time energy and environment professional, talked about California’s current legislation and governor Brown’s aggressive measures to cut down on carbon emissions. Nichols has also served as Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air and Radiation program under President Clinton, Secretary for California’s Resources Agency from 1999 to 2003 and Director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Nichols priorities as chairman include moving ahead on the state’s landmark climate change program (AB 32), navigating the ARB through the efforts to limit diesel pollution at ports, and continuing her work to pass legislation aimed at providing cleaner air for Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. Nichols said that the state’s administration goal is to meet the highest carbon reductions at the lowest possible and cost effective ways.
To read more about clean energy and the federal government initiatives, read Setting back innovation in renewable energy?
What are California’s current challenges?
Nichols talked about the need to accelerate development and implementation of the regulation set in addressing several areas:
– Increase energy efficiency retrofitting projects
– Reduce cost of electric vehicles
– Deliver new social innovations and public education
– Support initiatives that increase mass adoption in the residential and commercial sectors
– Deliver new financial models that offer low cost solutions. Focus on developing financeable projects
– Act now and not wait for 2015
– California is in the process of developing a cap & trade legislation for the state
– Provide leadership and become a model for other states
Nichols said that California can set an example by being energy progressive and demonstrate advanced legislation. Today, California contributes 2% of the global carbon emissions. Although this number seems low, she said that by showing that state level policies can be economically viable and contribute to a flourishing economy and society, California advances will have an impact worldwide.
What is going to happen to clean energy in the future?
In 2011 there has been more capital investment in renewables infrastructure than in fossil-fuel based grids. Although there has been negative messaging and wrangling of the topic in the media this past year, in particular toward clean energy and the Obama’s administration stimulus programs (solar got a bad rap with the collapse of Solyndra), the industry is tremendously growing.
Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, called for support of President Obama’s energy policy. He has more than 25 years of experience in energy technology, policy, and finance, including serving in the Clinton administration at the Department of Energy as Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and recently as a member of President Obama’s Transition Team. Reicher came to Stanford in 2011 from Google, where he served since 2007 as Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives.
On November 7th we will know more on what’s next for the energy future in America.
1. REFF-West – www.reffwest.com
Part of the global REFF series that includes REFF-Wall St, the nation’s largest annual event for renewable energy finance, REFF-West has been uniting senior financiers, investors and clean energy executives from across the US each year since 2008.
Covering a range of renewable and clean energy technologies, with a particular focus on developments in the Western US, topics covered at REFF-West included project financing, venture capital, renewable power generation, emerging commercial technologies, financing smaller projects, equity financing and established technologies. The conference also offers networking among representatives from the clean energy, green technologies and financial sectors.
To download the REFF event’s brochure, click on http://www.reffwest.com/images/documents/REFF_West_2012_Brochure_2.pdf
For additional events, check the REFF website.
2. ACORE – American Council On Renewable Energy – www.acore.org
A non-profit membership organization that is dedicated to promoting and building secure clean energy in the U.S. ACORE is focused on accelerating the adoption of renewable energy technologies into the mainstream of American society. It provides a common educational platform for the wide range of interests in the renewable energy community, such as the various renewable energy sectors, thought leaders, associations, utilities, end users, professional service providers, financial institutions and government agencies. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the organization runs several programs, events, and regional round-tables. Check the website for more information (Events and Programs tabs).