While Israel still has work ahead to develop its own clean tech, organizers of the Renewable Energy Conference in Eilat tout the country as a global beta site.
While Israel generates numerous headlines as a solar energy innovator, the country still has plans to build additional coal plants, and there’s relatively little production of renewable and alternative energy on its turf. International media, investors and policy makers have been asking why this is so and hopefully some answers will emerge from an annual coming together of minds in Eilat from February 16 to 18.
Dorit Banet, a co-chair of the upcoming Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference, tells ISRAEL21c that she hopes the conference will help Israel to color itself greener at home, through education, relationship building and business networking. For three days in February, expect to meet international powerhouses and renewable energy innovators as they converge on Israel’s sunny southern city of Eilat.
Banet was head of the environmental unit in the sunny Eilat-Eilot region located in the southernmost tip of Israel. As she contemplated the region’s business and energy potential, she realized that much more could be done with respect to renewable energy.
Israel as the beta site for clean tech
With summer highs reaching a scorching 113 degrees F, the region is perfect for the deployment of alternative energy projects like solar energy. Back in 2007, Banet and her handpicked partner Noam Ilan held the first energy conference in Eilat and followed it up with another energy conference last year.
“The focus here, what we really want to achieve, is to be the place where things are happening,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “We want to improve this field of knowledge. After the first conference in 2007, people put their money into building a strategic plan. Last year’s event was to say, ‘here is the initiative, the government is with us and here is the knowledge.’”
This year, she says, with an estimated turnout of 1,500 people, the conference organizers are saying: “We are the beta site for clean technology. We know the potential after Copenhagen. The world should enter a new era and aim for 350 parts per million greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2050. This is one of our main goals. We want to put the innovation out front.”
Through the conference, she continues, “we want to show how we can be the beta site and how we can be bankable.”
Emphasizing Israeli innovation
In the year 2010 says Banet, the emphasis will be on regulations: “How we can build, and put together big solar power stations. The second emphasis will be on Israeli innovation – how this market can be the mainstay of Israeli income for years to come.
“All the world emphasizes the need for innovation in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Those two together can provide the answer to the energy crisis. We want Israeli clean tech to be at the forefront here and all over the world. We want to give it more exposure, and we want the government to understand how it can help [innovators] take the first steps in Israel.”
The speakers invited are expected to spark discourse about and contribute their expertise to innovation, policy and implementation. Companies such as Siemens, Schott Solar and the Chinese solar company Suntech are expected to attend and participate.
Other high profile guests expected include US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones; Prof. Robert (Yisrael) Aumann, a Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics from Hebrew University; Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utility Commission; and Prof. David Faiman, the internationally acclaimed Israeli researcher on solar energy from Ben Gurion University.
Local innovators, global goals
Banet emphasizes that the conference is a global event. All discussion about implementation, policy and regulation will be meant to address a global environment, not just what’s happening locally in Israel. Meanwhile, experts such as Kateri Callahan from the Alliance to Save Energy in Washington will explore different financing models for renewable energy. Banet expects this to be of interest to financiers from Europe and North America.
“The interaction between big entrepreneurs, big financers, and local innovators is very important,” she stresses, “and it is these three that the event will attract… a major part [of the attendees] will be from Europe, from large financing and other big companies that want to know what Israel has to offer.”
There will also be time to go outdoors and enjoy this sunny retreat city in the name of business and networking: Local solar energy companies like Aora are expected to strut their solar stuff. Located in the Eilat area, those interested will be able to visit Aora and its ultra-high temperature-concentrating solar power technology that focuses sunlight on a flower-like bulb high in the sky.