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March 27, 2006

Energy Club Hosts Symposium on Renewable Energy

Policy experts, business leaders and students came together at the School on March 24 for “Meeting Tomorrow’s Energy Needs: Opportunities and Challenges in the Renewable Energy Sector.”


Policy experts, business leaders and students came together at the School on March 24 for “Meeting Tomorrow’s Energy Needs: Opportunities and Challenges in the Renewable Energy Sector,” the Energy Club’s second annual symposium on key trends and issues in the industry.

The event gave participants the opportunity to learn about the technology used to produce green, or nonpolluting, energy — including state-of-the-art wind turbines and solar panels — and discuss the financial and political support that these and other initiatives require.

Brian Ward, managing director and chief risk officer of GE Energy Financial Services, gave the keynote address. Ward, who is responsible for risk management for the division’s $11 billion portfolio, said the “renewables” industry is rapidly growing.

“We’ve invested a billion dollars in wind, biomass, hydro and solar projects,” he said. “Solar is still very expensive and on the fringe, but wind will be a big player going forward.” Improvements in wind technology will be critical as investors confront blade cracks, rotting, lightning and the fact that “the wind doesn’t always blow,” Ward said.

Ward said that India and China are at the forefront of wind technology and that the United States trails behind Europe, particularly Germany and Spain, in use of renewable energy. “Many states seek green energy, and renewable standards are driving the industry, but these standards still differ from state to state.”

Geoffrey Heal, the Paul Garrett Professor of Public Policy, moderated the first panel, “Alternative Production Technology,” which featured representatives from five companies that manage renewable energy projects.

One of the companies, Northeast Biofuels, is constructing a corn-to-ethanol plant in a former Miller brewery in Fulton, N.Y. The plant will produce 100 million gallons a year, which would make it the third-largest ethanol plant of its type in the nation, according to Northeast Biofuels spokesman Stewart Hancock.

A second panel, “Value Drivers in the Renewables Sector,” focused on the investment side of renewable energy and included Joe Van den Berg, a partner with Booz Allen Hamilton, and Peter Fusaro, chairman of Global Change Associates.