Friday, May 23, 2008

Observations from the Tel Aviv U. renewable energy conference

Earlier this week I attended the Renewable Energy and Beyond conference at Tel Aviv University (TAU). The conference, which organizers say was attended by over 700 people, featured presentations by influential business leaders, academics, and government officials from Israel, the United States, and around the world. I was pleased to see many participants from the Cleantech Israel meetup group in the crowd.

What follows are some observations from the conference. Ha'aretz published an article today that includes interviews with several of the speakers, and a video of the conference is also available online.

Tel Aviv University to establish "super center" for renewable energy

Robert Goldberg, Chairman of the Board of Governors of TAU, announced that the university will establish Israel's first "super center" for renewable energy. The goals of the center will be to:

  1. advance multidisciplinary research on viable renewable energy solutions
  2. promote implementation of these solutions in Israel and around the world
  3. nurture new generations of environmentalists, scientists, and businesspeople
Let's hope that this initiative is a success. MIT's Energy Initiative demonstrates what is possible when a leading university takes on the challenge of "linking science, innovation, and policy to transform the world's energy systems."

U.S. and Israel sign M.O.U. on Renewable Energy Research Collaboration

Steven Chalk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy, announced that his office signed an agreement Wednesday with the Infrastructure Ministry outlining areas of possible research collaboration, including biofuels and solar power storage, which enables solar providers to supply energy for a limited time even when the sun is not out. The deal provides for joint funding by U.S., Israel and private-sector partners and could be finalized by Friday, Chalk told Ha'aretz.

This follows the passage of the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act in December 2007.

The Future of Transportation

Prof. Michael B. McElroy of Harvard gave a sobering presentation on climate change and the need to act now to cut down on the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation and to demonstrate to China and India that development and prosperity can be achieved in environmentally sustainable ways.

McElroy also emphasized the need to move away from using (imported) oil for transportation. According to McElroy, the solution is to do away with the internal combustion engine, develop battery technologies, and replace oil with electricity generated by renewable sources. While he did not mention Project Better Place, his lecture seemed like a good pitch for the company.