On Friday, September 5th, 2014 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse hosted the Rhode Island Energy and Environmental Leaders Day (EE Day RI). The day allowed participants to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to protecting our environment in the Ocean State. Throughout the day, knowledge sharing and connection took place between governmental organizations, non-profit leaders, and Rhode Island based businesses.
Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence and oceanographer, discussed the impacts of global climate change on the oceans. She highlighted the already severe damage being done due to ocean warming and acidification. She is working on developing “Hope Spots” throughout the globe where living systems will be safeguarded. This will help to maintain biodiversity, yielding stability and resiliency in response to accelerating climate change.
Jeff Goodell, an energy and environmental champion, contributing editor at Rolling Stone and a writer for The New York Times Magazine, spoke about his experience researching the coal industry. Starting with a focus on the economic benefit of the industry, his attention quickly turned to the harm the industry was doing to the environment and individual health. He continues writing in the environmental space, recognizing that global climate change is the most significant challenge our species has ever faced.
The above picture shows a discussion during the “Emerging Economic Opportunities in the RI Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Sector” breakout session. Marion Gold of the RI Office of Energy Resources (left) moderated the discussion. Brendan Bell of the DOE Loan Program’s Office (second from left) highlighted the work that the federal government is doing to establish funding models for new technologies. Dennis Duffy of Cape Wind (third from left) and Jeffery Grybowski of Deepwater Wind (not in picture) discussed the opportunities for a rapidly expanding offshore wind market in the United States. Timothy Horan, President of RI National Grid (third from right), spoke of work being done to provide value at lower costs to ratepayers. Peter Rothstein of the New England Clean Energy Council (second from right) and Hannah Morini (right) of the RI Commerce Corporation, provided information on collaborative efforts between business and government programs. Christine Smith of the RI Commerce Corporation (not shown), provided information on R&D-related economic development opportunities.
Overall, the Rhode Island Energy and Environmental Leaders Day was a great success that provided inspiration for all in the renewable energy industry in Rhode Island and beyond.