At today’s plenary session, we were thankful to have the ability to Skype with Bill McKibben for the session, as he was unable to join us in Baltimore. Bill McKibben is a radical grassroots activist, author, and president/co-founder of 350.org. He is a fantastic speaker and we were lucky to have the opportunity of listening to him. He starts off with his “good news first” by saluting everyone in the room for what they are doing in the industry, because there is a lot going on right now. Bill’s talk was about the dire need to take action to address climate change and our CO2 emissions, as the results are becoming remarkably apparent. He tells us that “the fight is on” and there is urgency for action to take the fossil fuel industry head on. He says that we need to join together as citizens for the fight, and tells us his experience with getting arrested in DC lobbying for change. Bill gave the room a laugh when he said, “past a certain point, what the hell are they going to do to you?” when saying that people rallying in DC should not necessarily be the young college students, who will probably be arrested. Bill says that there is a need to be courageous in this fight because climate change does not give us a large time frame to work with. I don’t think I was alone in being completely inspired by Bill’s talk.
Alice Leblanc, Former Director, Office of Environment and Climate Change – AIG, spoke next mostly about her frustration with the lack of Federal action concerning Co2 emissions and climate change. She calls climate change “the new norm” and addresses the major symptoms, causes, and effects of climate change over the last 20 years. She talks to us about resilience and how insurance can provide a huge incentive for resilience. Alice feels strongly that solar energy, energy efficiency, and a smart grid work the best together to achieve success.
We were also grateful to have Georg Manue, First Secretary for Climate and Energy at the German Embassy join us at the conference today. He really hit on Germany’s path toward a sustainable energy society and the motivation for Germany’s energy transition, which was that it is needed, possible, and beneficial. The use of a feed-in tariff has been the most successful model for renewables in Germany. Renewables are very well accepted in the country, making the transition a bit easier. Germany has worked to install 1/3 of global PV panels despite the huge lack of sunlight in the country. Georg has a very positive attitude toward the renewable industry in Germany and is confident that their targets to reach by 2020 will be achieved.
Finally, we had the pleasure of listening to Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability – US DOE. Patricia showed us a shocking extreme weather map of the US and discussed the fact that the types of hurricanes occurring in the US are changing greatly, with their dynamics continuing to evolve. She talks about the 1-2 punch, which is the concept of back-to-back storms or a large storm with very widespread diverse effects. Her message to us was that we have to do more, and we have to think about it now. What is the risk we want to take? What do we want to invest in? How can we build in resiliency?