Energy Cool: Spend a week WIRECing

This coming week in Washington is a hot one when it comes to renewable energy, as the United States hosts the Washington Internation Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC).  WIREC is a combination of official ministerial (and other government) meetings and presentations; a business conference about renewable energy developments; a trade show; some real interesting looking “official side events“; and a chance for related presentations and demonstrations.   This really is a “be there or be square” event for those concerned about renewable energy (and its potential to help address Peak Oil, Global Warming, social justice, and other critical issues before us/US).

As per Worldwatch‘s announcement of one of the sessions with their staff speaking:

WIREC 2008 provides a center of knowledge transfer among industries, finance, academia, civil society, and government. …  an impressive group of high-level speakers and attendees for the Trade Show at WIREC 2008, … 60+ official side events …

WIREC is the third international governmental renewable energy conference, following up on events in Beijing in 2005 and Bonn in 2004.  With the massive boom in renewable energy investment in the intervening years since Beijing and the mounting understanding of the urgency of action, WIREC holds the promise of creating an environment for meaningful announcements and interaction. One particularly promising element is the clear mixing of government officials (the ministerial meetings) and the business community (business conference and trade show).

Just who are some of the people showing up this week for the “Ministerial” session, consider the speaker list which includes …

  • Michael Ahern, CEO, First Solar
  • Dan Arvizu, Director, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Kristjan Guy Burgess, Reykjavik Energy
  • John Cavalier, CEO, Credit Suisse First Boston
  • Tom Delay, Chief Executive, UK Carbon Trust
  • Baerbel Dieckmann, Lady Mayor of Bonn, Germany & President, World Mayors Council on Climate Change
  • Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Mohammed El-Ashry, Chairman, REN 21
  • Christopher Flavin, President, WorldWatch
  • Mark Fulton, Managing Director, Global Head of Strategic Planning and Climate Change, Deutche Bank
  • Peter Hodgson, Minister of Research, Science and Technology, New Zealand
  • Mihir Kumar Mohanty, Mayor of Bhubaneswar, India
  • Joachim Luther, President, European Association of the Renewable Energy Research Centers
  • Kathleen A. McGinty, Secretary, Department of Environmental Protection, State of Pennsylvania
  • Lew Milford, President, Clean Energy Group
  • Maud Olofsson, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden
  • Wolfgang Palz, Chairman, World Council on Renewable Energy
  • Sergio Rezende, Minister of Energy, Brazil
  • Dieter Salomon, Lord Mayor, Freiburg, Germany
  • Mark Sinclair, Director, Clean Energy States Alliance

And, so on …

Over in the business conference, starting Wednesday, there are all day threads (multiple sessions) on solar PV, wind, biomass,  biomass/waste-to-power, geothermal, and hydro/ocean power. 

And, there are also the official side events (although, to be honest, it looks pretty confusing as to where these are being held, when, etc … see here). And, there are many ‘unofficial’ side events that are occurring around, amid WIREC.

If attending, perhaps the greatest challenge will be to make good use of one’s time, with multiple competing sessions (from the ministerial to the business conference) and hundreds of exhibits/exhibitors to explore.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect is the high barrier to participation.  Even to simply visit the ‘trade show’ (the exhibit hall), WIREC requires a $100 payment.  While not much of a barrier for someone making their living in this area, it will keep the ‘casual’ person seeking to learn more about renewables from coming to wander the booths.  And, well, entering into the conference halls raises the barriers further.

Looking to Monday 

The government and business conferences don’t start until Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean that tomorrow, 3 March, doesn’t have a pretty full agenda as the side events run Monday-Thursday. What are some of the sessions 3 March.

  • Sustainable Technologies to Enhance Biomass Production: New Tools in the Toolbox (Biochar — which is exiciting, truly, in a change the world for the better, massively, type of potential)
  • REES Investment Opportunities in Tuscany: Ah, the image, investing in a better future and getting to live in Tuscany. The sun, the food, the wine … sign me up for this one.
  • Thinking Outside the Box: The Nevada Reforestation and Bioenergy Project: There are a lot of problems in the world, real and serious ones. Yet, there are paths and potentials for positive change. Here is a chance to learn about one in the SW US.

What has my eye at the moment?  A prayer for sun inside a conference room Monday, 3-5 pm, as some of the best in the solar cooking “industry” (is it right to call it an industy, I wonder) will combine for a presentation on solar cooking:

Solar cooking is a rapidly growing practice in both the developing and the developed world. Its proven benefits are environmental, health-related, economic and social. In this session, a who’s who from the nonprofit and for-profit worlds will brief attendees on the state of the art in solar cooking technology transfer, technical innovation and public policy reform. Each sponsoring organization will lend its unique perspective and hands-on perspective in conveying the promise, progress and challenges ahead for solar cooking. Examples of popular solar cooking devices will be featured.

Truly, I do not believe in Silver Bullets, with a passion for advocating Silver BBs, Silver Buckshot, and Silver Darts.  While it certainly isn’t the Silver Bullet that will solve the globe’s problems, Solar Cooking certainly is ’silver’ in my book.  And, sadly, it is ’silver’ that simply hasn’t gotten enough attention and support. 

The benefits of using solar cookers whenever the sun is shining, in addition to smoke-free cooking, include:  job creation; technology transfer; capacity building; decreased deforestation; reduction in CO2 emissions from cooking fires; preservation of forests and ground cover; sterilization of medical instruments; reduction in respiratory, lung, intestinal and eye diseases; and the ability to pasteurize water for drinking.  Solar cooking, when used as part of an integrated cooking program can reduce fuel consumption by more than 75%!

If you’re not up on solar cooking, time to be so and Monday’s event is a pretty good opportunity to hear from people who really know what they’re talking about.

Solar Cooking is something suitable for backyard barbecuing (and daily meal preparation) in the “developed” world while offering, quite literally, a life-changing possibility for many in the developing world.  Solar Cooking is one of those win-win-win approaches that truly makes you wonder what is in the mind of “development experts” when they aren’t part of the agenda for efforts around the globe.  Maybe tomorrow’s session on solar cooking will have a few drop-ins who can help change this. Hopefully …



  • Solar Cookers International is a non-profit seeking to “spread solar cooking skills and technologies where they are needed most. Within their website is Solar Cooking Archive, a major resource, with many (MANY) links.
  • Solar Household Energy, Inc:  A non-profit that ” seeks to harness free enterprise to introduce solar cooking where it can improve quality of life and relieve stress on the environment.”  They have developed an excellent system, the HotPot, which they are seeking to spread throughout the developing world. (Americans can buy a HotPot via SunOven.ORG — $99.95.)
  • Sun Ovens International, dedicated to “Saving Lives by Preserving Forests Around the World”.  Has a very large system Village Sun Oven(Villager Sun Oven) “designed for large-scale feeding situations that require cooking great volumes of food quickly.”  This can hit 500+ F cooking temperatures.  For Americans, there is the quite excellent Sun Oven, which folds wonderfully and can be easily moved around for barbecueing, traveling or otherwise. Want to cook a 15 lb Turkey while camping, the Sun Oven can do the trick without any campfire.
  • Tulsi Hybrid Oven is a combo electric, solar cooking system that enables one to plan a meal, even amid cloudy weather. The claim is roughly a 75% reduction in electricity use. This is a system that can cook at home, be taken on picnics, or support an off-grid life.  A recent review of solar cooking options gave the Tulsi five stars.

Although it is portable, hybrid stovethe Hybrid Solar Oven is a little too heavy to carry up into the woods. But if you don’t want to be sitting hungry wishing the clouds would go away, this solar oven is the best bet you can make. It uses the sun when rays are available, and switches to electric power from a normal 120V outlet when clouds move in.

Well, if you want to spend just a few dollars to build one and test it out, check out
How to Build A Solar Cooker. There are many easy to execute plans, many of which should cost just a few dollars to make.  (And, well, some are a bit fancier.  Check out the Cob (photo show) and imagine it finished with tiles, would make a pretty fancy backyard barbecue, no?)


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