Who would have thought that a debate about light bulbs could be such an eye opener? But this is exactly what former Governor Edward G. Rendell used to describe the state of politics yesterday at the 2011 Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF) co-hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Euromoney Energy Events in New York City. During his keynote address, Rendell voiced his frustration about the current politics in Washington by depicting the GOP resistance about transitioning away from incandescent lightbulbs. “We’re diddling around on BS while the rest of the world is kicking our butts,” he said.
Rendell went on to call for a renewable energy standard, stating that we must collaborate to fashion a bill that has something for everyone, “we want to change this and the time is now. We have to create the climate for change. It starts in your hometown.” He went on to say that in order for the industry to get pumping again, we need to galvanize public opinion and push for change all the way to the White House.
Joseph A. Stanislaw, President of the JA Stanislaw Group, agreed that if industries don’t collaborate now, we will fall behind the rest of the world. “Right now, we have the biggest opportunity of mankind with this transformation that is taking place. We need to change business models and have partnerships with these [fossil fuel companies],” he said.
Along with partnerships, Arno Harris, CEO of RecurrentEnergy, reminded us of the tax equity issue for solar. “We have nowhere near the amount of tax equity needed to maintain solar momentum,” he warned, “if we don’t bring it back, the industry is going to run out of gas really fast.” But, he ended on a hopeful note, “we need crisis to spur action and I hope this crisis is what will do it.”
While we heard these industry warnings, we also listened to hopeful progress. Kevin Walsh, Managing Director at GE Energy Financial Services, said that his company has invested $6 billion in the past five years and is eager to continue investing in renewables. He reported that in the past three years, wind costs have dropped 40 percent, “call it grid parity or what you will, it’s happening folks and it’s exciting.”
But to make true progress, it looks as though we will all need to collaborate – the public, the energy sectors, the government – because as Mr. Rendell said, “if we don’t, we’ll fall further behind. So many places are getting it and we’re not. We’re still arguing about light bulbs.”