SOLAR 2006: The Latest News from Denver (Update 4)

A conference wrap-up gives voice to the pressing call to action for resolving the consequences of climate change by implementing renewable energy.

PvH Blog Entry for SOLAR 2006 (July 13, 2006) Hello Again, All … The exhibit hall is long gone, and some attendees have already left, but the final day of the SOLAR 2006 conference was every bit as eventful as the others before it. I made the tough decision to pass on the session about Amendment 37 (Colorado’s voter-approved renewable electricity standard), as “I lived it,” and knew I’d be in touch with the presenters in a few days anyway. But I hope the people in that session from out of state (especially states with no RPS … yet!) got the information and inspiration they need to start, run, and succeed with similar campaigns across the country. While parts of the 2004 election were truly painful for many of us, I can always take comfort in remembering the Amendment 37 campaign and the shot at sustainability it will provide for Colorado. I instead went to the session on Peak Oil. While I attended an excellent 2-day conference on this subject back in November (www.aspo-usa.org/fall2005), I feel this issue is roughly as important as Climate Change — quite simply: once either of them begins to take full effect, everything we’ve known will change. Steve Andrews (who I like to think of as Colorado’s “Mr. Peak Oil”) gave his excellent-as-usual description of the problem and (unfortunately) dim prospects for the future. Ron Swenson discussed the clear solution provided largely by solar energy (i.e., its virtually unlimited supply leaves us to only figure out how best to deploy it for our power & transport needs). Morey Wolfson also provided his own not-quite-as-technical take on the subject, but also provided at least a few glimmers of hope for our future prospects. The conference wrapped up with a closing luncheon and presentation by top NREL Scientist and Conference Chair Chuck Kutscher. Chuck did an excellent job with the conference overall, and also provided a nice summary of findings from its research. Similar to Robert Socolow’s “Stabilization Wedges,” Chuck discussed the nine different essential components to reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuels, and thus reducing our carbon output: more energy-efficient buildings, more energy-efficient transportation, more energy-efficient industry, wind, concentrating solar power, solar PV, biomass (primarily for electricity), biofuels (primarily for transportation) and geothermal. Considering the steady stream of the world’s greatest climate change scientists telling the SOLAR 2006 that “we need to reduce our CO2 emissions by [x],” implementing the above strategy would be more than sufficient to pull us back from the brink of disaster with our climate. Chuck finished by making an excellent comparison of our current planetary predicament to that of the Apollo 13 mission. As you may remember from the Ron Howard / Tom Hanks movie, the crew not only needed to get back home, but also needed to manage the carbon dioxide building up inside the ship. The above plan — and the entire SOLAR 2006 conference — shows quite conclusively that “Houston, we have a Solution!” All that’s left now is the individual and collective will to implement these plans. Finally, I’d also like to acknowledge the Mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper. “Mayor Hick” was the first speaker at Sunday night’s opening plenary session, and then gave his State of the City address on Wednesday (not at our conference, but we tried!) where he announced his “Greenprint Denver” plan. Recognizing the threat of climate change and the opportunities of more sustainable practices, the City & County of Denver will now take aggressive steps to save water, switch to much more efficient transportation (hybrids, biodiesel, etc.), and make Denver a model for other cities to emulate. I feel the need to quote him directly here, as this sentiment fits in quite well with the work at our conference: “Even if there’s a 2 percent chance that 95 percent of the world’s top climate scientists are right about the dire consequences of global warming, we run the risk of being the first generation in history to leave the next generation a problem for which there is no solution.” Well said, Mr. Mayor! Thanks very much for reading these dispatches from Denver. Thanks even more for doing what you do every day to make ours a more sustainable world. I look forward to seeing the fruits of our labors at SOLAR 2006 translating into exactly that, and then look forward to seeing you & lots of other new friends in Cleveland for SOLAR 2007! PvH

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