SAN FRANCISCO--(Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF)-West hosted by the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Euromoney Energy Events in San Francisco, CA this week brought together over 350 investors, industry executives and policy makers for an engaging discussion on the state of the renewable energy industry, public policy, financial markets and corporate strategy in the renewable energy sector. During the two-day session, the 55 speakers and panelists expressed a call to action to those in the industry to continue developing financing solutions that promote growth and job creation in the domestic renewable energy industry.)--The fifth annual
"We need to move from politics to policy"
Speakers from leading renewable energy companies, investment institutions, nonprofits and government organizations expressed the need for a consistent, stable policy signal from national, state and regional policymakers to drive renewable energy growth. "We need to move from politics to policy," said ACORE President Admiral Dennis V. McGinn during kickoff remarks on Day 1 at REFF West. "The depolitization of the energy industry is an essential factor in moving towards policies that will support a diversified energy portfolio."
The call for energy diversification echoed throughout the panels. Paula Gant, Vice President of Policy for the American Gas Association, emphasized the need for a diversified approach to energy development, stating: "Abundant and affordable natural gas doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue developing renewable energy. National security requires that we do."
The achievements of California in developing and supporting a thriving renewable energy economy were also a driving theme this year. Michael Peevey, President of the California Public Utilities Commission, and Yiaway Yeh, Mayor of Palo Alto, shared their insights on policy models that have worked in the state to support and drive the growth of a clean energy economy. "We will achieve California's 33% RPS target by 2020," said Peevey. With a population of over 36 million people and an economy that is the eighth largest in the world, California leads the nation in electricity generation from non-hydroelectric renewable energy sources.
Keynote speaker Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, lauded the tremendous advancements in clean technology that have created possibilities that were almost unimaginable 10 years ago. "The next three years," she said, "stand out to be the most important years to clean energy yet. The investments that come out of conferences like this will continue to make a difference." Rick Needham, Google's Director of Green Business Operations, echoed this message of optimism. "Our long term vision is that we can go anywhere and have access to cheap renewable energy. If we have the right financing mechanisms and incentives in place, the sky is the limit in what we can achieve in this industry."
Additional topics and highlights from the conference include:
- The impact of falling natural gas prices, and the resulting "paradigm shift" occurring within the natural gas and renewable energy industries, were discussed at length among panelists. There was agreement that this shift is initiating a tremendous change in how financiers, industry leaders and policymakers think about energy production and use in the U.S.
- Panelists attributed California's leading renewable energy portfolio to the surge of solar PV in wholesale distributed generation solar markets, and also noted a trend of renewed capital and investor interest into California solar PV from traditional and non-traditional investors.
- Lastly, panelists discussed the impact that fiscal tax reform could potentially have on the renewable energy industry. Panelists suggested that the expansion of Master Limited Partnerships to cover renewables could help level the energy policy playing field and be a way to bring new principal to the industry, thus creating additional opportunities to invest and deploy capital.
It's clear from this year's REFF-West that the global financial community is strongly supportive of renewable energy development in the U.S. and worldwide, but until there is stable federal policy for clean energy, the renewables industry must contend with regulatory uncertainty as well as political and economic challenges that can hinder growth and investment in the space.
"Representing more than 35% of all new U.S. power generation since 2008 and as a growing part of our transportation fuels supply, renewable energy is a material and competitive part of the nation's energy mix," said Dan Reicher, Executive Director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University "Following this year's elections, bipartisan support for smart energy policy with an important role for renewable energy is essential to maintain and increase the impressive levels of private capital investment and market growth we've seen in recent years."
The next ACORE and Euromoney Energy Events conferences will be REFF-Latin America and Caribbean in Miami on April 24-25, 2013 and REFF Wall-Street in New York City on June 25-26, 2013.
REFF-West is the largest renewable energy finance conference focused on West Coast energy issues. It is hosted by the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC, dedicated to raising the profile of renewable energy, and Euromoney Energy Events, a London-based wholly owned subsidiary of Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC and organizer of conferences to address topical issues in the energy sector. For more information, please visit http://www.reffwest.com.