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EcoSalon: Panel Gives Insight on How to Move Renewable Energy Forward

There is no denying that our energy use has a huge impact on our waterways. That is why, in October, Riverkeeper convened a panel of thought leaders in energy policy, finance and architecture, to discuss how to craft a sound, sustainable energy plan.

Moderated by Michael Gerrard, the Director of Columbia Law School’s Climate Change Center, panelists Peter Davidson, Executive Director of the Loan Programs Office (LPO) at the U.S. Department of Energy; Richard Kauffman, Chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Board; Shaun Chapman, Senior Director of Policy & Electricity Markets, SolarCity, and Sean Gallagher, Director of Sustainable Design at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, gave some great insight into how to move renewable and energy efficiency forward. Here are the big takeaways:

1. Renewables are already here. The renewable energy technologies we have today are both viable AND economical. The decreased price of solar and wind, combined with the cost effectiveness of distributed power solutions like combined heat and power (CHP), is putting pressure on traditional centralized utilities to consider and implement these cleaner distributed technologies.

2. Storage technology is the next “great frontier” in energy. Innovation here will help us turn renewable sources into reliable power bases, even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Though, the batteries we have today are already “pretty darn capable.”

3. The “whys” matter. Most arguments in favor of renewables and efficiency play to environmental or economical concerns. (Let’s save the planet and let’s save money!) But there are other powerful incentives, too. For example, renewables can offer people control and independence. In the aftermath of Sandy, this incentive might reach folks who aren’t motivated by the more traditional arguments.

4. Efficiency is great, but hard to sell. While solar panels can offer consumers an immediate experience, new boilers or additional insulation just don’t have the same effect. Efficiency measures are not things you interact with and appreciate right away. To really boost interest in efficiency, people will need to appreciate the value of energy (i.e. pay the full cost of production) or policy makers will need a heavier hand.

These issues couldn’t be more important, given the threats we face from climate change and the damage old power plants do to rivers and air quality. Using energy more efficiently, wringing out waste and bumping up renewable fuels aren’t just admirable things to do, at this point: They’re essential to building a sustainable future. Riverkeeper is proud to partner with our EcoSalon panelists and so many others, to help make sure we do just that.

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