Presidents column: Growing support for massive renewable energy development at global conferences

Wednesday, 26. July 2017

In my recent Sunburst column I alluded to a number of conferences I have attended recently that show growing support and technical feasibility for massive global renewable energy development. However, my Sunburst steered away from my travel log to focus on the unfortunate decision by the U.S. government for deciding to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and the global pushback against this decision. So I will use this column to summarize the several recent conferences I have attended, and what these conferences are saying about the global renewable energy movement.

At the end of May I was in Munich, Germany to participate in Intersolar Europe. This conference and exhibition have grown steadily over the past few years, and the exhibition booths of many of the solar companies seem to be growing is size as well. Over 1100 exhibitors (including ISES) presented the latest in solar and storage technologies, interconnection hardware, resource assessment techniques, and market information. These exhibits were supported by a broad range of PV and smart grid technical sessions. The traffic flowing past the ISES booth, and the number of people who stopped by to gather further information about our Society’s activities, was impressive. I would like to extend a big thank you to Joanna Costello, Liane Aziz, and Monika Falkner of ISES HQ for their efforts in making our presence in Munich a success, as it has been every year in which we have participated.

From Munich I traveled to Bern, Switzerland for the first meeting of a new IEA Photovoltaic Power Systems (PVPS) Task called “Solar resource for high penetration and large scale applications”. The interest in high quality solar resource information to support the rapid growth of the PV industry remains very high, and this task, which is a continuation of the Task that had been under the EA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme since 2004, will represent a significant contribution to the PVPS Technology Cooperation Agreement. We expect to hold several ISES webinars over the next three years on the activities and outcomes from this Task.

I then travelled to London for the 81st meeting of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (IEA-SHC) Executive Committee. Since our next Solar World Congress is being held together with the SHC Programme in Abu Dhabi from 29 October – 2 November, this EXCO meeting provided me with an excellent opportunity to coordinate our planning activities. The joint conference is shaping up to be a significant event, with representatives from throughout the solar community as well as global leaders on renewable energy programs expected to attend.

After a short trip home I then traveled to Mérida, Mexico to participate in a panel discussion at the International Student Energy Summit. My invitation came from the Summit organizers, Santiago Antonio Espinosa de los Monteros Harispuru and Daniela Eichelmann, with whom I had visited two years ago when I attended their regional Student Energy event, as well as Meredith Adler, the Executive Energy of Student Energy. Student Energy is a global not-for-profit dedicated to creating the next generation of energy leaders committed to transitioning the world to a sustainable future. The Summit attracted around 600 young participants from around the world, and brought together traditional as well as renewable energy companies to discuss the future of energy. Even among the traditional companies there was a clear sense that the future of energy will belong to renewables, and that many traditional companies are taking a long view to see how they can build up a renewable energy portfolio themselves. There was considerable enthusiasm about the future of renewable energy as a predominant final energy supply among all the participants, and Student Energy is making great strides to ensure that a workforce for this energy transformation will be enabled.

Our next stop was in beautiful Stromstad, Sweden, where I had been kindly invited by Prof. Lars Brohman and Dr. Larry Kazmerski to give a keynote address on 100% Renewable Energy at the 12th International Symposium on Renewable Energy Education (ISREE 2017). Several other current and past ISES Board members (Paulette Middleton, Monica Oliphant, Geoff Stapleton, Yogi Goswami, and Anna Grete Hestnes) were also invited to give talks. For many years ISES had supported the ISREE Conferences, although none have been held since 2005. Based on the success of ISREE 2017 there was strong sentiment to renew the series as a way to broaden the importance of the role of advanced education in the renewable energy transformation. ISES is certainly interested in supporting the re-establishment of this symposium series.

The final destination of my June travel odyssey was in Bari, Italy, where I organized a panel discussion on high penetration of renewable energy (leading to 100%) at the 4th International Conference on Energy Meteorology (ICEM 2017), organized by Alberto Troccoli and the World Energy and Meteorology Council (WEMC). My fellow panelists included Christine Lins, Executive Director of REN21, who gave an overview of the recently-released Global Futures Report, Vera Silva of EDF Lab, Paris and Christina Archer of the University of Delaware who discussed the role of renewable energy resource forecasting as a key step in achieving high penetration of renewables, Vladimer Kubecek of the IEA who discussed the contrasts in renewable energy markets and deployment strategies between developed and developing countries, and Charlie Smith of the Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group (UVIG), who highlighted grid integration strategies and how to deal with the uncertainty of the resource.

This is just a sampling of the many outstanding conferences, symposia, and exhibition events that are being made available to a broad spectrum of the renewable energy community, including seasoned practitioners as well as novices and even skeptics. These events are raising the awareness of, as well as the economic, environmental, and energy security opportunities for, achieving a 100% renewable energy supply for all of our end use energy requirements. ISES is pleased to be a supporter of many of these events, and will place significant focus on these issues at our joint Congress with the IEA SHC later this year.