“We stand at the threshold of an enormous economic opportunity,” declared Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), as he opened the “Pathway to 2050” Conference in Sacramento on August 20. “We can’t wait for Washington to provide the answers. California must lead the way.”
California’s been leading the way for years. The state has taken the lead on renewable energy for power generation, on energy efficiency, on carbon emissions, on new fuels for transportation, and on retrofits of public buildings. As a result, California has built a robust advanced energy industry – from energy efficiency firms and electric vehicle companies to solar developers and fuel cell makers. The state’s aggressive goals for 2050 will spur further development, said Richard, provided that business leaders are able to “convene, connect, and collaborate on public policies that can accelerate advanced energy growth and value.”
AEE brought together a diverse group of leaders from business, government, and finance for a half-day symposium entitled “Pathway to 2050: Achieving California's Advanced Energy Goals.” The event showcased industry perspectives and insights on critical issues tied to California's energy system, focusing on market transformation and what is needed in order for the state to be on track to meeting future energy goals.
In her keynote speech, California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary D. Nichols stressed the importance of a durable, long-term policy framework. “In my experience, the best public policies set firm goals and unleash the creativity of businesses to meet them,” she said.
The business leaders who spoke agreed. “We are committed to meeting the challenge of transforming our energy industry in California,” said Susan Reilly, CEO of RES Americas and newest member of AEE’s Board of Directors, as she introduced the first panel of the day, on creating an “integrated energy vision” for California.
“California is at a pretty remarkable point in its development,” said Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy and also an AEE Board Member. “That success is now bringing to us the next set of challenges.”
Synergy between industry and policy was a theme that came up throughout the day. Senator Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Tom Steyer, business leader, investor, and co-founder of AEE met in a fireside chat on “California’s leadership role.” The two celebrated the achievement of Proposition 39, the 2012 general election ballot initiative that is providing over $500 million per year for energy improvements at public buildings, while noting both the policy hurdles and business opportunities that have arisen in its implementation.
“California has the most aggressive policy framework of any government in the world,” said Steyer. “I’d like California to take our show on the road.”
“AEE is a game changer,” said Sen. de León. “The work that we’re doing with AEE will not only reduce our carbon footprint, it will create jobs for Californians.”
The conference also gave industry leaders a chance to get together for real conversations about topics such as regulatory and market barriers as well as maximizing returns from California’s numerous energy finance programs.
“This event was a great opportunity for California business leaders to come together and help move energy policy forward,” said Dimitrios Papadogonas, VP of Marketing, ChargePoint.
The diverse collection of nearly 200 business leaders, entrepreneurs and policymakers in attendance only underscored how poised advanced energy is for growth in the coming decades. Panelists included: Kish Rajan, Director of Governor Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development; Josh Richman, VP of Business Development at Bloom Energy; Lyndon Rive, Co-founder and CEO of SolarCity; Gia Schneider, Chairman and CEO of Natel Energy; Dimitrios Papadogonas, Vice President of Marketing at ChargePoint; Andrew Smith, Founder and CEO of ATDynamics; Susan Reilly, CEO of RES Americas, and Ryan Popple, Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers.