July 19, 2002 — The American Council for Renewable Energy (ACRE) held its Organizing Conference in Washington DC on July 10-11, 2002, bringing some 250 of the nation’s leaders in renewable energy together for the first time.
“This executive conference really met or exceeded our goals and aspirations in every way,” said Chairman Michael Eckhart, President of Solar International Management. “And, importantly, ACRE is now up and running and ready to take meaningful action on behalf of renewable energy.”
In a rare moment that highlighted the bipartisan scope of ACRE’s reach, both current and previous Assistant Secretaries for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EE/RE) gave opening keynote speeches. “We welcome the development of ACRE and look forward to working together,” said David Garman, DOE’s Assistant Secretary for EE/RE, who went on to point out that “54 of the 105 recommendations in the National Energy Plan pertain to energy efficiency and renewable energy.”
Dan Reicher, Assistant Secretary for EE/RE in the Clinton Administration, now Executive Vice President of Northern Power Systems and a Managing director of New Energy Capital, described a vision for renewable energy in the U.S., and defined the challenges facing ACRE as a new organization. At the meeting, Dan Reicher, along with Hank Habicht, CEO of the Global Environment & Technology Foundation, were elected co-chairmen of ACRE’s prestigious Advisory Board during the conference.
The conference featured national leaders in finance, international affairs, government, industry, consulting, and energy suppliers and customers. Finance was the lead-off conference topic, with spokespeople including Christine Farkas of Merrill Lynch, Nancy Floyd, a venture capitalist with Nth Power, Jack Robinson, a green fund manager with Winslow Management, and Hank Schilling of GE Capital.
One of the world’s best-known figures in energy efficiency, Amory Lovins, defined a new 12-part national strategy for mobilizing renewable energy in a keynote speech based on his well-known strategies to make the world more energy efficient. “It must be done,” said Lovins, “and it must be done well.”
The conference session on the government’s role surprisingly shifted attention away from Washington, looking instead at the increasing array of innovative policies for renewable energy at the state and local level.
Jeanne Fox, President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, reviewed her state’s program for renewables. Terry Surles, director of the California Energy Commission’s technology division, outlined the scope of the state’s energy strategy on efficiency and renewables, calling on the states to “develop policies and programs that suit their individual opportunities and needs.”
This sentiment was echoed by speakers from Nevada, where policy focuses on a renewable portfolio standard, and Massachusetts, where policy is built around a state-level renewable benefits fund. “We will be deploying funds at an accelerating pace,” said Rob Pratt, newly selected director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Renewable Energy Trust.
A distinguished international panel on the “global context for renewable energy in America,” was led by a challenge speech by Christopher Flavin, president of Worldwatch Institute. “We are very optimistic about the future for renewables, but there needs to be considerable work on harmonizing public policy around the world.
Increasingly, we are learning what works,” said Flavin. Other international speakers laid out important themes. Frank Tugwell, president of Winrock International, spoke on the need for leadership of ideas and action. Alan Miller of the Global Environment Facility spoke about the opportunity to effect change, and the need for commitment.
The second day of the conference opened with a panel of statesmen: Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Hermann Scheer, member of the German Bundestag and leader of the renewable energy community in Europe; C. Boyden Gray, former counsel to President George H.W. Bush and a leading advocate of electric and alternative fuel vehicles; and James Woolsey, former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and expert on global energy affairs.
“The issue that ACRE is organizing around is very timely and important for the country,” said Senator Bingaman, “and I wish you every success.” Bingaman went on to review the status of the pending Energy Bill, noting that it seeks to “move us from a reliance on energy policies from the 19th and 20th centuries to much more of a 21st century approach to meeting our energy needs.”
Hermann Scheer of Germany excited the audience with an impassioned speech that began with “the necessity for putting renewable energies in place, for the assurance of life on the Earth. There is no time to waste. It must be done before they say we waited too long.”
James Woolsey opened with a gripping statement, “Our country is at war.” He called for an immediate strategy of expanding the strategic petroleum reserve, and for fundamental change in two ways: substantially improved energy efficiency and a shift to flexible fuel vehicles and new supply from biofuels.
Subsequent sessions of the conference focused on “making it happen” through the eyes of suppliers and customers. Speakers representing renewable energy trade associations described the outlook for their respective technologies: Thomas Dinwoodie, PowerLight Corp for solar; Chris Hocker, CHI Energy for hydro; Randall Swisher, American Wind Energy Association; Robert Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association for biomass; Karl Gawell, Geothermal Energy Association; and Gene Nemanich, ChevronTexaco for hydrogen.
From the energy marketing perspective, Terry Hudgens, CEO of PacifiCorp Power Marketing, Inc., said, “Our company supports the key renewable energy policy drivers of a renewable production tax credit, efficient utilization of tax credits, federal and state renewable portfolio standards, fair transmission access, regional transmission organizations, transmission expansion policies, and additional R&D.” Tom Rawls, chief environmental officer of Green Mountain Energy Company, reported that it is all about “getting the markets right.”
From the customers’ perspective, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, spoke on the challenges of deploying “expeditionary forces” and the role of renewable energy in the future military.
The closing session of the conference focused on what programs ACRE should consider in the realm of information and communications.
ACRE plans to raise funds for a national communications campaign for renewables, and there were three presentations about experience to date from Kirk Brown from the Center for Resource Solutions, John Hangar from PennFuture, and Lew Milford from Clean Energy Group. “Many states with renewable funds are coming together to educate the public about clean energy,” said Milford.
The conference closed with ACRE’s first annual membership meeting, in two parts. The first part was a town meeting format in which the participants discussed ideas about ACRE’s future mission, strategy and programs. The second part was a membership meeting, during which acting Chairman Michael Eckhart reported that over 50 organizations had already submitted applications for membership after just six weeks of the initial membership drive, which continues through 2002.
“Over the next five years, ACRE will seek to bring together the 500 to 1,000 organizations that are in, or related to, the renewable energy community,” said Eckhart. “The mission is to bring renewable energy into the mainstream of America’s economy and lifestyle. As a nonprofit group, ACRE will be working to promulgate better information about renewables, and raise the funds necessary for a sustained national communications program aimed at the American people and leadership. We have a positive message.”
Eckhart closed the conference by declaring it a resounding success, called upon the members to work together to build ACRE’s programs in the coming year, and reconvene in May 2003 for ACRE’s 2nd Annual Meeting.
ACRE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was chartered in Washington, DC in November 2001 and approved by the IRS in May 2002. Additional information is available at ACRE’s web site: https://americanrenewables.org/ .