WIREC 2008: A Global Perspective on Renewable Energy

Thousands of world and business leaders, legislators, global energy gurus and policy wonks are expected to converge on Washington, D.C., March 4-6 for what is being billed as the "largest all renewable energy event in U.S. history."
By Sarah Smith | January 10, 2008
The Washington International Renewable Energy Conference is a public-private partnership aimed at the global deployment of worldwide renewable energy systems.

Official host of this third annual global policy forum is the U.S. Department of State, which has to date issued formal invitations to delegates from 70 countries around the globe. Each invited country is allowed a delegation of 10 invitees, which will include energy ministers, chiefs of staff, legislators and other state officials.

The State Department is being assisted in the conference planning and execution by the American Council On Renewable Energy. Event sponsors anticipate anywhere from 2,000 plus attendees overall as the conference dates near and enthusiasm grows. "We invite the worldwide renewable energy community to assemble for this conference, which uniquely brings together the thousands of key people in government, industry, finance, and civil society," Michael Eckhart, ACORE president, said in a news release.

In addition to the invited countries, nongovernmental delegate spaces have been set aside for private sector attendees around the world, allowing all participants to share energy experiences, practices and strategies. Proposed conference goals include:

›Advancing energy security, climate change, air quality and sustainable development goals, including agriculture, forestry and rural
›Demonstrating global leadership in renewable energy research, policy development, technology innovation, commercialization and
›Fostering collaboration between industry and government to help solve global energy challenges
›Examining policy initiatives for state and local governments that will facilitate the rapid scale-up of renewable energy.

Organizers of WIREC 2008 have raised more than $2 million to host the ministerial events, which evolved from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. There, world leaders and energy entrepreneurs acknowledged an urgency to develop renewable sources of energy that would address the challenges of global warming, economic growth, energy security and air quality.

Subsequent conferences attracted thousands of participants to Bonn in 2004 and Beijing in 2005, where participants reached unanimous consensus and support for energy sources such as wind and solar power, biofuels, biomass, hydro energies and geothermal power. In Bonn, participants formulated 197 imperatives to allow market development of renewable energies, secure cost-effective public-private financing of energy needs and coordinate research and development of energy technologies. In Beijing, 80 countries promulgated a Status and Action Plan to promote and advance a global renewable energy strategy. Representatives then signed a declaration affirming their commitment to renewable energy while acknowledging the challenges facing the industry.

Eckhart spearheaded efforts for Washington to host a subsequent event as soon as practical. In 2007, the State Department approved the 2008 conference, and planning began immediately. He reasoned that such a conference was best situated in a capital city, Washington, which has the infrastructure and motel space for such a gathering, and it would be an invaluable opportunity for U.S. federal agencies to participate.

Numerous federal agencies and quasi-governmental entities have teamed up with the State Department to host WIREC 2008 events, including the USDA, the U.S. EPA, the U.S. Commerce Department, the Interior Department, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Export-Import Bank.

The conference includes a ministerial meeting for energy and environment ministers and a parliamentary meeting for members of elected legislatures. There organizers hope to launch a global crusade in which stakeholders, both public and private, will voluntarily commit to adopting, promoting and disseminating strategies for renewable energy programs sustained by both public and private funding.

One session will focus exclusively on voluntary participant pledges to increase renewable energy deployment, meant to further the goals advanced in Bonn and Beijing.

Trade Show
An accompanying trade show also scheduled for March 4-6 is expected to attract thousands more participants. Organizers have already booked more than 300 exhibitors and are expanding the original trade show floor by one-third to accommodate more exhibits. Jim Pierobon, director of communications and external relations for ACORE, says this event might double in size from the 3,000 participants originally anticipated. This is a rare opportunity for vendors to get perspectives on local markets and to network with world leaders and multinational organizations, Pierobon says.

Both events, the ministerial conference and the trade show, will be located in the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, 50 to 100 official side events will be held by various states, foreign governments, nongovernmental organizations and multinational corporations. Some of the side event sponsors include BP, Good Energies, Renewable Capital and Stoel Rives LLP.
Although three days have been allotted for the conference, Pierobon says organizers expect the scheduled events to spill over into a week-long forum and business conference.

For more information about the event visit the Web site at www.americanrenewables.org.

Sarah Smith is an Ethanol Producer Magazine staff writer. Reach her at ssmith@bbibiofuels.com or (701) 663-5002.