Global New Energy Summit Convenes in Colorado Springs
By BECKY ENGLISH, Chair, Rocky Mountain Chapter Energy Committee
The third annual Global New Energy Summit this Spring was a large gathering of people interested in "new energy" capitalization and deployment. I attended the Summit because I was interested to see how well Sierra Club's clean energy priorities are doing in the energy investment world. Topics covered at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, CO were organized into three concurrent tracks: Supply and Distribution, Strategy and Leadership, and Innovation and Capital. The conference's scope included not only clean renewable energy and energy efficiency and demand reduction strategies, but also fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
The Strategy and Leadership track featured sessions on cooperative policymaking, the water/energy nexus, and energy policy leadership. In the international policy and markets session, Probir Ghosh of invVEST said that China will surpass US GDP by 2013. "The US must export more, especially to emerging countries," said Ghosh. "Currently the imbalance between the China and the U.S. is $400 billion to $100 billion per year. Growth in China's energy sector was 2.5 times faster in the U.S. energy sector growth rate. Seventy percent of all net new energy installations in the world occurred in China in the last ten years. Will the U.S. ever be able to catch up?"
Wilson Rickerson, CEO of Boston-based Meister Consultants Group, leads the company's international energy and climate practice. He said the U.S. is sleepwalking while others in the world play 3-D chess. "Eighty-five countries have clean energy targets, requiring $200 billion in working capital," said Rickerson. "The U.S. has no national target."
Roger Rosendhal manages the corporate and finance practice at DLS Piper. He's optimistic about U.S. prospects, believing that the large trade deficit is misleading. "The U.S. is the world's nerve center for globalization," he says. "Tax and regulatory incentives here haven't been consistent, but they've been enough to develop the wind markets." Rosendhal points out the benefits of feed-in tariffs, good for consumers as opposed to taxpayers.
Robert Youngberg of Sustainable Development International also believes in feed-in tariffs. "FITs stabilize the markets," he points out. "Under feed-in tariffs, customers in over 60 countries have become suppliers." He quoted studies accounting for the cost of externalities—health care costs, environmental monitoring, and military activity—at 15 to 20 cents per kilowatt hour, making renewables more than cost competitive with fossil fuels. Youngberg reviewed the benefits of feed-in tariffs, such as increased entrepreneurship and associated tax base, increased jobs, local multiplier effects, carbon reduction, grid security, and energy independence.
The conference's presenters also spoke about nuclear development, nuclear cleanup, nuclear decommissioning, and conversion from wet to dry radioactive waste storage. Don Gillispie, CEO of Alternate Energy Holdings, wants to jump-start a nuclear renaissance. He is working on a large nuclear facility in Idaho, and claimed first right of refusal to develop a proposed nuclear power plant near Pueblo, Colorado—a proposal since defeated by a coalition led by Sierra Club.
A number of presenters spoke of the need to develop energy policy in an integrated fashion among utilities, regulators, investors, consumers, and national and state legislators, but the conference lacked consciousness about climate change as the underlying rationale for renewable and energy efficiency, and urgency about why it's important to invest in sustainable energy. Lack of a national clean energy strategy, continuing outsized subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power, and uncoordinated state policies all conspire to make a forum like this one emphasize business-as-usual. The holy grail of sustainable clean energy business continues to fly just under the radar of major investors.
All photos courtesy Global New Energy Summit and Presenters