|The Growing Role of Women
|Attendance and popularity of the women in energy sessions
was one of the pleasant surprises of the Congress, as seminars
on two separate days drew packed rooms, described Bob Noun,
deputy director of the NREL.
Gender and energy is a long-standing subject of these
Congresses that began in 1990 with a focus on the countries
of the developing worldwhere so many have village settings
and in which women are required to gather resources from the
little they have, said Noun. These women are importantbut
overlooked decision-makersand the Congress helps them
develop the ability to use renewable energies such as photovoltaic
and small wind turbines. The whole point is to create knowledge
and awareness and educate them to use these technologies, and
also find ways to finance their purchase.
The World Renewable Energy Congress, said Noun, fills a void
in that senseand the workshops, including those on technology
and policy makinghelp give a strong voice to women around
There is a huge discrepancy between the technology base
among countries, Noun said. The congress helps reduces
differences in technology and across the knowledge base.
1,000 delegates and dozens of exhibitors from 100 countries gathered
in late summer in Denver, CO, for the Eighth World Renewable Energy
Congress. Their common goal: to share information, advance the science
and technology of renewable energy and push the bounds of its applications
worldwide. Wind power, solar, hydrogen, biomass, lunar, hydro and
others received their time in the spotlightand a boost toward
Great things can result when great minds come together,
said Richard Truly, director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
(NREL), part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and sponsor
of the event. The WREC provides us all with a place to share
ideas among some of the worlds greatest thinkers about energy.
The six-day event opened with welcoming remarks by Denver Mayor
John Hickenlooper, who talked about the emerging potential of renewables,
especially at a time when oil prices are bouncing between $40 and
$50 a barrel. Our heads are spinning with the potential of
what the future can be, Hickenlooper said. It is great
to see this transition. The new commercial realities will take place
on a local basis, working with small business and government. I
urge all here to take advantage of this unique point in our historywhere
energy prices are making the advances of renewable energy more practicalto
seize the moment.
In fact, many congress participants expressed high levels of optimism
that the global renewable agenda was gaining traction and accelerating
in the high-priced energy environment. We are clearly in a
transition phase now, said David Ince, a photovoltaics engineer
from the University of the West Indies in Barbados. We are
still a few years from getting into the mainstreambut I have
a feeling we are just barely pre-revolution right now.
Ince noted that more companies seem to be directly involved in bringing
technology to the forefront with improving economics, and recognized
increasing progress and technological development in a number of
nations. He was very pleased with the level of sharing of technology
that was taking place.
We are well along now on the spectrum of application with
industrial and domestic
technologies, commented Robyn Meerveld, a renewables research
analyst with the Ontario regional government in Canada. I
am amazed at how many delegates understand the importance of renewable
fuels in lifting their populations, and I am astounded at how close
we may be to a hydrogen economy based on renewable fuels.
I find this gathering to be very eclectic and interesting
in the diversity of the renewables
story, said Ralph Overend, an NREL analyst. He singled out
a presentation of the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) as
a forum for policy, economics and civil society to advance the progressive
energy agenda. Asked about GVEP as a vehicle to interact with a
variety of non-governmental organizations, Overend said that where
emotion can supplant reason, GVEP can help take the passion
out of the process and replace it with reason. Working at the local
level for development is where progress is to be made.
If solar is to play a significant part in the lower carbon
economy, it cannot be a cottage industry. Neither can it be a license
to lose money in a good cause. The industry has to think big, make
money and become hundreds of times larger than it is today.
This candid assessment of the commercial potential of solar energy
by John Mogford, BP group vice president-gas, power and renewables,
was one of many global insights shared with attendees during the
opening plenary entitled Linking the World with Renewable
Energy. Additional speakers included Stephen Timms, the United
Kingdoms energy minister; David Garman, the undersecretary
of energy for the U.S. Department of Energy; Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes,
director general of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment,
Nature Conservation and Nuclear; Ali Sayigh, WREC chairman; H.E.
Altwaiji, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization;
and Dr. l Osman Benchikh, UNESCO.
The foundations of tomorrows solar industry need to
be built in the developed world, Mogford continued, emphasizing
that, The U.S. should become more consistent and long-term
in its thinking about solar energy if the sector is to gain the
scale it needs to become profitable. If solar is to compete for
mass energy markets beyond 2025, then it must break out of its current
framepredominantly determined by an unpredictable mix of state
and private shareholder support.
Mogford argued that solar manufacturing needs to be at a global
scale, and to operate at that level it also needs some way of being
consistently insured against market risk. At the same time, there
has to be a local industry to service local markets and this, too,
needs local consistency, he said.
Success in establishing a free-standing solar market will
depend on a common cause between public and private sectors,
he said. Our vision is of a market in which the players from
the private and public sectors have a unified strategic commitment
and vision for renewable energy, including solar, and a coherent
program to implement it.
A HYDROGEN ECONOMY
The DOEs Garman encapsulated U.S. policy on renewable energy,
and supported the case for a hydrogen economy. The good news,
he said, is that I can and do buy 100 percent of the electricity
used in my home through a renewable energy green power
purchase program. The bad news is that I have to pay much more for
the privilege of doing so, he commented. To make renewables
the mainstream choice for mass markets, we have to change that,
and we will.
Garman noted that currently, through the work of NREL and at government
and private industry labs around the world, the price of renewable
energy is declining even as the prices of fossil fuels are rising.
And when renewable energy is combined with the promise of
hydrogen, an energy carrier that can, unlike electricity, be stored,
the real potential of renewable energy becomes apparent.
Garman said that thus far the DOE has announced $350 million in
competitively selected hydrogen research projects, which will leverage
a total $575 million when non-federal cost share is included. Much
of this work is focused on tackling the storage problem and performing
learning demonstrations on vehicles and the necessary hydrogen infrastructure
to support them, he said.
Garman also announced a new round of competitive selections for
cost-shared hydrogen research projects$77 million in DOE funding
for 36 research projectswhen the non-federal cost share is
included, the total amount exceeds $100 million.
Our focus in this round is hydrogen production and delivery
technologies, he said.
Garman also tackled the question of clean versus non-renewable hydrogen
sourcing, because the methods employed to produce hydrogen
is of particular interest to the renewable energy community,
The charge has been leveled at us, unfairly I must add, that
our interest in hydrogen is to promote so-called dirty
methods of making it. My response is merely to encourage you to
look at the facts. Of the $59.3 million we are allocating toward
hydrogen production in these awards, over $50 million is allocated
to renewable hydrogen.
Garman called natural gas an interim on the route to
renewable hydrogen. To those who opposed natural gas as a source
of hydrogen, he pointed out that natural gas offers a 60 percent
reduction in carbon dioxide, and said, We cannot dismiss the
good in search of the perfect and miss several decades of environmental
|Education and Outreach
|Education was the specific focus of Tuesdays events,
and about 600 students and teachers visited the Energy Technology
Expo, rubbed elbows with delegates and asked questions of renewables
experts. BP, for example, utilized Education Day as an opportunity
to introduce its A+ for Energy program that is being
pioneered in California.
Dr. Cynthia Howell, director of the office of education programs
for NREL, said that efforts such as Education Day were central
to ongoing NREL efforts aimed at workforce development in the
energy field and that the advent of renewable energy was helping
generate new interest. We have to create exposure to give
children the opportunity to know what is available. If you reach
a kid, you can change a life with one experienceand you
reach their family. If you reach a teacher, you reach the kids.
It is exponential in nature.
Representatives of the American Association of Blacks in Energy
(AABE) shared Howells perspective that education and outreach
are vital for the industrys future. Paul White, AABE director
and an NREL engineer and patent attorney, is among other NREL
employees who staff the AABE. We are here for the exposure
and to get our messages out, he said. The AABE argues
that high energy costs and environmental problems fall disproportionately
on everyday people, the poor and the underclass,
according to White. Our objectives are to influence energy
policies, provide scholarships to minority students to help
create more minority engineers and scientists, and serve the
educational needs of our members and the public.
White describes AABEs members in 33 chapters as consisting
of a cross-section of every ethnic group. Every chapter
offers scholarships and we strive to go beyond politics, working
toward policies that are good for America in terms of energy
security, environmental improvement and the development of our
Sheila Terry, also an NREL employee and AABE representative,
said that the increasing awareness of renewables was creating
new interest among youth in energy, and that she saw a greater
basic earth consciousness in students at the expo. NRELs
Janice Brown said students are very aware of their own
use of energy, and are concerned about the future, the environment.
They are interested in solutions, and what they see here helps
make it fun.
This certainly was the experience at the BP booth, where Ron
Tovella and Dan Larson fielded numerous questions from the students
in attendance. Larson said many questions centered around why
a primarily fossil fuels company is exploring renewable energy.
Many were surprised to learn that we intend to be providing
our customers worldwide with many forms of energy in the future,
and that we could even be retailers of hydrogen fuel in a few
decades, he said.
Timms, the British energy minister, provided an expansive, and statistic
laden overview of the UKs position on and commitment to renewable
energy. In tandem with the remarks provided by the German Director-General
of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation
and Nuclear Safety, the UK-German counterpoints were perhaps a prelude
to what a more prescriptive U.S. renewables program might be like.
Timms said that his government agrees theres a need for action.
The U.K. recognizes that there is strong scientific evidence that
climate change is real, Timms said, acknowledging, however, that
dealing with climate change wont be easy. Reasons
for expanding use of renewables, he noted, included reducing pollution
and health costs.
Renewable energy also can make a great contribution to increasing
the U.K.s shifting energy mix as the country moves from net
exporter to importer, Timms said. In describing the renewable measures
of his government, he explained the Renewable Obligation, a regime
in which electrical suppliers must gradually shift their mix and
show evidence of it or pay economic penalties. On the basis of his
governments renewable policies, he noted signs of growing
investor confidence, and said renewables offer fantastic
opportunities for investors.
German Minister Hinrichs-Rahlwes version of the Renewables
Obligation is the Feed-InRenewable Energy Sources Act. The
legislative initiative provides a reliable framework for investors
and has transformed renewables into a booming industry employing
more than 120,000 people with revenue over $12.3 billion annually,
According to Hinrich-Rahlwes, state money does not support the Feed-in
Law. Costs, and apparently degressive returns, are shared
by all consumers.
THE PATH FORWARD
What is critical to increase traction in the long-term, noted many
congress participants and speakers, is consistent support on the
part of policy-makers at both the global and the local level.
Thats what we need if we are to have the confidence
to build infrastructure, achieve scale and sustain employment,
advocated BPs Mogford. Consistency will nurture this
industry, but boom and bust will finish it off. And, of course,
we need this support to be widespread. We need more states to commit
strongly to the future of renewables.
Timms echoed Mogfords sentiments. Technology development
is a vital component in helping to mitigate and adapt to climate
change, but it will not occur in isolation. Supporting policies
are needed not just to develop and implement technology, but also
to engage the public and to ensure that change happens in the most
cost-effective way possible. We need to think innovatively; flexible
mechanisms like emissions trading will help to ensure that least
cost options are taken up.
Congress participants also agreed there is a sense of urgency.
Awareness of the challenges of human beings on the planet
to be environmentally responsible and to advance human civilizationliterally
to save the planet, is what Abbas Elmualim of the University
of Reading School of Construction Management and Engineering in
the U.K. said he is taking away from the congress. The challenges
are social, economic and environmental, and now there is the issue
of security as well. Our solutions must cross cultural, national
and religious boundaries. Multi-national companies particularly
have a very important responsibility to keep it moving. The dialogue
is very important, and the contacts made here will continue this
|Policy Precendents in Bonn
|The Bonn Conference on the Environment, held in June 2004,
set policy precedents for all nations in moving the renewable
agenda forward, according to Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes of the
German Ministry of Environment, Nature, Conservation and Nuclear
Safety. The Bonn conference, he said, set in motion an
ambitious action program for the global increase in the use
of renewable energies. To this end, governments, international
organizations, industry, academia and decision-makers from the
local level submitted 194 concrete actions and commitments.
According to Hinrich-Rahlwes, a number of countries formulated
ambitious targets to increase the use of renewable energies.
* By 2010, China aims to obtain 10 percent of its electricity
from renewable sources such as solar, small hydro and wind.
* The Philippines aims to double its share of renewable energies
by 2013 to more than 40 percent, making it a world leader in
* Egypt intends to obtain 14 percent of its electricity from
renewable sources by 2020.
* Germany aims to generate 20 percent of its electricity from
renewables by 2020, a target that is now legally binding according
to terms of that countrys Renewable Energy Sources Act.
* Likewise, in the United States, California and New Mexico
recently announced new targets to increase share of renewable
energy and to boost energy efficiencyat least 30,000 MW
of clean energy by 2015 and a 20 percent increase in energy
efficiency by 2020.