It was like she was performing a winning monologue in a play—impassioned, dynamic, loud and impossible to tune out. Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan now at UC Berkeley “brought down the house” as the keynote speaker at REFF West, ACORE’s annual conference that brings together some of the most important players in the renewable energy finance and development arenas, which was held last week in San Francisco. Granholm criticized congress and urged her attentive audience to “go around,” not to rely on Washington to promote renewables and take charge of the transition but instead to innovate and continue to go through the private sector. It was early in the morning on a Tuesday but she managed to wake up the room. The former governor was oozing with passion, her entire body involved in the speech that set the ball rolling for a room of innovators, investors and others to spend two days discussing the future of renewables—which, given our current global climate crisis, equates to the future of the world.
I was sitting in the back of the room, a conference volunteer and representative for RE-volv, technically not even two days into my service as the new Communications Director at RE-volv. A recent graduate of Northwestern University, the opportunity to attend a conference like REFF West was simultaneously exciting, rewarding and a little intimidating.
I left the conference with a few key takeaways: firstly, I am on a learning curve. While I’ve studied environmental policies and have done my fair share of reading in preparation to start with RE-volv, the world of solar finance and even solar technology is more complex than I could have imagined. Secondly, I left the conference confident in the future of renewable energy. The industry is in good hands, hands dedicated to changing the way we power our homes, schools and businesses, and dedicated to curbing the use of deadly fossil fuels.
Lastly, and most importantly, I walked away from San Francisco’s Palace Hotel Wednesday night riled up and bursting with excitement to get started at RE-volv, to be a part of changing the world for the better and fighting climate change from the ground up, truly from the grassroots. Not only was I able to think more about how important it is to work every day to tackle climate change, but I also was inspired with the confidence that renewables are leading the way to actually tackling it.
Throughout the conference I got to hear from some of the most important figures from all aspects of the renewable energy industry. I listened to software innovators, like Mosaic’s Billy Parrish, talk about the role of apps and IT in shaping our country’s energy future. I learned about the exciting and inspiring future of electric vehicles from key figures at Tesla, BMW, the NRDC, Sierra Club and UC Davis. I was enraptured by discussions over regulatory policies and taxes, the future of utilities and how banks have warmed up to financing renewables after years of avoidance. What’s more, I spent lunches, networking breaks and receptions mingling with representatives from all around the industry. Happily, so many of them were impressed and enthused by hearing about RE-volv.
On Sunday, September 21st, which happens to be my 22nd birthday, tens of thousands of people, maybe even hundreds of thousands, are joining together to raise their voices and call upon world leaders to take action against climate change. New York, right next door to where I grew up, is the epicenter. Solidarity marches are planned in cities across the US and the world, including right here in the Bay Area, my newly adopted home.
As I start my year with RE-volv, my dedication to promoting the role of solar energy in fixing our planet renewed by REFF West, I am stunned by the infectious, fiery calls to speak up and get serious about the environment. And at RE-volv we are here to spread that fire, to light up one person after the other with an appetite for change. Through crowdfunding, RE-volv gives the chance for everyone to be involved in curbing climate change—it gives people the power to make a difference regardless of circumstance. The seed is spreading, the sun is shining, and the world is waking up. I can’t wait to jump in and be a part of growing the movement with RE-volv this year.
Photo: More than 7,000 gathered in Philadelphia for the first Earth Day in 1970. What will New York and cities across the country look like tomorrow?