Sustainable Energy Coalition Expo Focuses on Renewable Energy

Rep. Sherry Boehlert (R-NY) received a lifetime achievement award on June 20 from the Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC) for his efforts to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency during his 24 years as a house member. He received the award at the conclusion of the 9th Annual Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Technology Expo, cosponsored by the Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC) and the House and Senate Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucuses.

While Boehlert was optimistic about the role renewable and efficiency technologies can and will take in meeting our energy needs — regardless of the political climate — he noted, “I’ve never seen a higher level of partisanship.” He continued with the ominous prediction, “There will be a downfall if we don’t change our ways.” The renewable energy and energy efficiency (RE/EE) groups at the SEC Expo were trying to do just that — transcend partisanship to talk about clean, efficient, sustainable, domestic energy options. More than two dozen exhibitors representing seven technology areas showcased their contributions to U.S. energy independence. These technologies not only span the spectrum of renewable energy providers, they span party lines as well. “Advocating for expanded renewable and efficiency technologies should not be a partisan issue,” notes Karl Gawell, Executive Director of Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), SEC member, and Expo sponsor. “At a time when energy prices are soaring, climate change is widely believed to have induced significant changes, traditional power plants are polluting the air, and our energy is increasingly delivered to us from unstable, overseas sources, whether a leader is a republican or a democrat should not matter,” Gawell added. “Our country needs these energy resources. The RE/EE leaders around the room at the Expo did not attend as democrats or republicans, but as alternative energy advocates.” Companies representing the biomass, combined heat and power (CHP), geothermal, hydropower, small distributed technology, solar, and wind industries came together to highlight the diversity of alternative energy resources available and in use throughout the country. Three panel sessions throughout the day focused on national security, economics, and global warming. Leaders from industry, science, and government, including chief scientist for the Climate Institute, Dr. Michael MacCracken, participated in the panels. MacCracken noted that the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement not signed by the U.S. to lower greenhouse gas emissions, would only reduce the projected business-as-usual worldwide CO2 levels from 20 billion to 18 billion tons by the year 2100. In order to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions, we need to bring that level closer to zero. MacCracken concluded, “Aggressive action to shift to non-fossil energy sources is needed right now.” While MacCracken called climate change a “long term incentive” for renewable and efficiency development, he pointed to the incentives repeatedly advocated by panelists as “short term incentives:” extension of the renewable Production Tax Credit (PTC), the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS) and the efficiency tax credits. Even after House leadership’s proclamation of this week, June 26-30, as “House Energy Week,” it does not appear that any of these incentives will be addressed. Carol Werner, Executive Director of Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and member of SEC, notes that Energy Week legislators did not focus on the technologies, resources, and policies featured at the Expo-those very technologies “that can make a difference now and in the near and medium term.” Despite the reluctance by some legislators to tackle these issues and the reported Congressional partisanship, renewable and efficiency technologies are continuing to grow in importance and capacity. Dr. Dan Arvizu, Director of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) said that he’s as “enthused” as he’s been “in thirty years” about these industries and their expanding potential. Panel speaker Phil Sharp, President of Resources for the Future (RFF), agreed. “We’re about to see a major move forward,” he concluded. Alyssa Kagel is Outreach and Research Officer for the Geothermal Energy Association. The opinions expressed are her own.

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