RETECH 2010: Negotiating the Bumpy Path to a Renewable Future
Image credit: David DeFranza
Entrepreneurs, inventors, students, and politicians gathered in Washington, DC, this week to discuss the latest developments in and newest challenges facing renewable energy. Whether called alternative, renewable, or cleantech, the underlying consensus at RETECH 2010 was that clean energy and innovative technology is the future but making it ubiquitous—and profitable—will not be easy.The conference is, in essence, a trade show; providing an opportunity for new companies to showcase their products and investors to discover the next big thing. Still, the exhibition hall was more a collection of renewable energy standards—various configurations of photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, and biofuels—than it was a vision of the industry's future. This, however, was fitting: The ultimate goal was not to reimagine what could be, but to find practical solutions to implementing the technologies already available in a profitable way.
To this end, a robust series of lectures and panel discussions took place concurrently. Featuring several thematic "tracks," the discussions ranged from implementing renewable technologies in a global market to promoting research and development, fostering adoption with innovative policy to encouraging investment.
The passion of the speakers was inspiring but their message was tinged with a realistic view of the challenges facing renewable energy development. The cessation of government subsidies, the lack of capital in the investment market, the byzantine permitting process, and an increasingly compressed time frame were all issues that emerged time and again.
Every seat was taken, however, and the number of people wearing full suits in opposition of the "business casual" dress code implied they took their jobs seriously. It was clear that RETECH embodied an important message: In spite of the challenges, renewable is important, it's the future, and, increasingly, it's the driving force in the business world.
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