Photos and Story by Robin Roth
National Clean Energy Summit 5.0
The fifth annual National Clean Energy Summit held on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at the Bellagio Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, was a huge success. The summit was hosted by Center for American Progress, Clean Energy Project, MGM Resorts International, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The summit brought to the table clean energy visionaries, leaders, public officials, business executives, entrepreneurs, investors, students, and the media to discuss how to empower the public with tools to promote the clean energy economy; increasing jobs and energy independence.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar opened the annual green energy conference with the exciting announcement that a 12-square-mile wind energy farm in rural White Pine County will begin producing electricity.
Since the first National Clean Energy Summit in 2008, Nevada has seen an enormous difference in clean energy and is currently producing virtually 4-and-a-half times the amount of clean megawatts from just four years ago. With solar, geothermal and wind projects arising across the State, Nevada is currently generating 1,150 megawatts of clean energy; which is enough to power tens of thousands of homes. Furthermore, clean energy projects are fueling Nevada’s tax base. Since 2010 Nevada has seen over $248 million in tax profits created from clean energy projects.
Though great strides have been accomplished to realize the clean energy potential, more can, should and must be done in the coming years to guarantee future clean energy growth. The National Clean Energy Summit 5.0: ‘The Power of Choice’, examined the most successful ways to force immediate investments in our clean resources and policies that can optimize renewable energy production.
A major focus was on empowering governments, individuals, and of course businesses with the ability to choose clean energy. The conference detailed energy options and how clean energy choices can improve the quality of life, save consumers money, and grow the economy. The more the public, business, and government learn about the enormous benefits of clean energy, there is a higher chance they will support policies to bring that prospect here sooner.
The time has come for the nation to better enable investments in clean energy. Increasing the amount of solar, wind, and geothermal energy can empower new industries and markets the ability to create new jobs and help rebuild our economy.
The Summit also discussed the need to invest in the research, development, deployment, and commercialization of new clean tech products to make us competitive in the $7 trillion global clean energy market.
executive director of the Western Interstate Energy Board Doug Larson, former director of Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy Arun Majumdar, owner of Energy Works Consulting LLC. Rose McKinney-James, UNLV President Neal Smatresk, co-founder of Advanced Energy Economy Dr. Hemant Taneja and founder, CEO and President of Viridity Energy, Inc. Audrey ZibelmanKen Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Michael Donley, Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Jim Murren, Chairman and CEO, MGM Resorts International, Leo W. Gerard, USW International President, Elon Musk, President and CEO, Tesla, Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Denise Bode, CEO, American Wind Energy Association, Fred Smith, Chairman, President and CEO of FedEx, Peter Fox-Penner, Principal of the Brattle Group, Phil Giudice, CEO, Liquid Metal Battery Corporation, Kristin McMillan CEO, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Chris Paine, American Filmmaker, Phil Giudice, CEO, Liquid Metal Battery Corporation, Kristin McMillan, CEO, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Rose McKinney-James, Owner, Energy Works Consulting, LLC and Tom Husted, CEO of Valley Electric Association, Inc.
President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote address.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton the energy GURU delivered a powerful keynote address. Clinton is not only passionate about this topic but, has been focusing on the issues of climate change and resource depletion for over 32 years. He said that in 1977, when he was Attorney General of Arkansas, he once brought Amory Lovins to come speak before the public utility commission about how energy efficiency could help prevent the construction of another nuclear plant.
He brought immense authority and great experience to the daylong National Clean Energy Summit 5.0. He commanded the attention of every person in the room.
“U.S. renewable energy efforts lag behind those in other countries”, Clinton said, recalling losing Senate backing for the 1997 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The U.S. never ratified the treaty, dubbed the Kyoto agreement that aimed at cutting greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere
Clinton said, “It will take a bias toward action, a bias for cooperation and a bias toward thinking big even if we have to act small,” to change the future. “The great winners of the world are the cooperators. Why is this important? Because cooperation gets lousy news coverage and people don’t know about it”.
“The power of example changes consciousness”, The President said, adding that “slow change shouldn’t discourage development and government can help with programs like tax incentives for renewable energy projects”.
“Germany and China have used such incentives to become leaders in solar power around the world”. . . “Lawmakers and business leaders need to rekindle a spirit of cooperation if the United States wants to lead in clean energy and address climate change”. Clinton urged patience in developing solar, wind and geothermal energy. He warned the United States is falling behind Europe, China and other countries in developing clean energy sources. “Five years is not enough. We have to pay the price of time,” Clinton told an audience of over 600 people..
Clinton stated that he was impressed with all of the visible tattoos of the 2,000 plus construction workers on the site of Ivanpah, and said this made him ponder how if there were people with visible impressive tattoos that advocated and understood clean energy, then there would be more success for the clean energy industry in Washington D.C. “Think of the tattoo vote”.
President Clinton attempted to cut through the contentious political fights picked by the “denialists in Congress” and highlight the importance of cooperation in fostering a smart, forward-thinking clean energy policy.
Clinton summarized efficiency and renewable energy projects in America such as the Ivahpah concentrating solar power project and the efficiency retrofit of the Empire State Building which has created thousands of green jobs.
After speaking for over an hour, Clinton sat down for 30 minutes for one-on-one questions from his former White House chief-of-staff John Podesta, now the head of a think tank and an energy conference organizer. Podesta asked, “Why has clean energy become so partisan”? Clinton said, “It became more politically divisive after President Barack Obama got elected and made it the centerpiece of his agenda. Republicans had a ‘just say no’ strategy’ to defeat him”. He added that, “Many of the big money political action committees funding Republican campaigns have financial interests in the oil and gas industry and feel threatened. They said if we just say no to everything, they’ll blame him,” Clinton said, referring to Obama. “They’ll think he’s too far to the left…The same thing happened to me during 1994′s “Republican Revolution” and subsequent government shutdown”.
President Clinton ended his appearance by fervently stating, “Every place people do things the power of example changes consciousness. Where ever you live, find something to do. Keep working until you find somebody of a different political persuasion with the same goal, and then figure out how to achieve it. So while you lobby for political change on the national level, it’s important to do something. Even if it seems small, it will have a big impact. Differences of opinion are important. If your purpose is to reach an agreement, than your disagreements become much more valuable. We are going to have to become a stakeholder society again — that’s the only thing that works.”
President Clinton warned that if the United States and the world don’t develop more renewable energy, greenhouse gases and rising temperatures will threaten the human race. Clinton said he read a book that concluded the species who manage to survive over time are those that cooperate among themselves, including humans, ants, bees and termites. The difference with humans, however, is that we are “vulnerable to arrogance,” which, could lead to our end.”If we’re destroyed, ants and bees will still be around,” Clinton stated.
The Summit featured discussions on how crucial it is to invest in the research, development, deployment, and commercialization of new clean tech products to make the United States competitive in the $7 trillion global clean energy market. For example, investments by the Department of Defense in renewable and energy efficiency technologies for military use will keep our troops safer by reducing their exposure caused by the transportation of energy resources to forward operating bases. These investments will also help the civilian clean tech sector to conquer the barriers of commercializing new clean energy technologies, just as we have done with the Internet, engines, and microchips.
Comments were made by speakers such as, any way we can use less energy is a good day. Another comment that struck a chord with the audience was, look how advanced cell phones have become in the last 30 years. Now look how advanced clean energy has become in the last 30 years. If we only put the same time and money into energy research that was put into cell phone technology, just imagine how advanced we would be today. It was also stated, that it is encouraging how more and more companies are waking up and going green today. A comment that brought applause was, if congress can get their act together and stop being so polarized, we can make policies to create jobs through an industry of green that is trying so desperately to get started.
The National Clean Energy Summits are making a difference!