Thursday, July 18, 2013

Renewable Energy Technologies for Economic Development

Greetings from the ANU Energy Change Institute, where Richard Adams, Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC),  US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is speaking on "Innovation and Commercialisation of Renewable Energy Technologies". He commented that the NREL wasted time talking about environmental benefits of renewable energy technology, when economic benefits and jobs would better get attention. Richard said he was "stunned" that electricity demand had dropped in Australia, whereas it is still increasing in the USA. I found that comment surprising, as he should be aware that Australia has a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and had implemented this party through an increase in electricity prices, which has reduced demand. In contrast the USA doesn't have an effective greenhouse gas emissions policy.
Richard commented that much of the solar panel industry had moved to China and NREL needed to consider how new technologies could be implemented by industries in the USA for local jobs. This seemed to me a short sighted and infeasible goal. If the aim is to create wealth and provide energy in the USA, this might be better done by licensing the technology to where it can be best manufactured.

Richard gave Tesla Motors as a model of low investment US manufacturing start-up. However, Tesla's first electric car was the Tesla Roadster, which is largely built in the UK as a modified version of the the Lotus Elise, with components from throughout Europe. The car is assembled in the UK and USA with imported batteries. This is a valid form of international manufacturing, but does not provide many US jobs.
Richard is the Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as well as the Director of the Center for Renewable Energy and Economic Development (CREED). NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. It is a global leader in developing creative answers to today's energy challenges. From fundamental science and energy analysis to validating new products for the commercial market, NREL researchers are dedicated to transforming the way the world uses energy. Drawing on his deep expertise and experience in supporting innovation and commercialisation of renewable energy technologies as well as his understanding of the Australian and US renewable energy sectors, Richard will introduce NREL and discuss, among others, possible areas of Australia - US collaboration, NREL’s experience in commercialisation of energy technologies, US policies encouraging innovation in renewable energy as well as major obstacles to broader uptake of renewables in US.

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