REEM ’09: The Convergence of Technology, Policy and Markets

California Businesses Seek to Form Renewable Energy Partnerships in Emerging Markets


Emerging market countries offer fertile ground for the growth of renewable energy projects. They have ample supplies of renewable energy resources (solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc) matched by a rapidly growing demand for energy. But what they often lack are the government policies, technology and capital resources to make these projects a reality.
By contrast, many areas in developed countries, and especially California, offer an abundance of these resources, and are often best positioned to lend a hand. To bring together these California resources with emerging market demand, the California-based Center for International Trade Development (CITD) played matchmaker this week, hosting the inaugural Renewable Energy in Emerging Markets conference (REEM09) in San Francisco. The CITD is a non-profit association that serves as a bridge connecting California businesses with the global marketplace.

Interact, Network, and Create Partnerships
The Bay-area chapter of the CITD, led by its Executive Director, Richard Soyombo, developed and hosted the REEM09 conference, which focused on the emerging areas of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Representatives from 35 countries in these regions attended, most from the various government agencies that deal with development and energy. Local attendees included federal and California state policy makers, clean-tech companies and capital firms.
In the press conference preceding the event, Mr. Soyombo commented:

By looking at the existing markets, we will be able to compare what works and what doesn’t here in the United States, identify solutions and, most importantly, create an environment where individuals and organizations will interact, network and create partnerships, on a global scale.

REEM%20Conf.jpgWith so much ground to cover, the conference stretched over three days (April 27 – 29). On Day 1, the visiting leadership participated in site visits to local facilities to learn first hand how the US applies renewable energy policies and technologies. On Days 2 and 3, presentations by government and business leaders covered the technologies, strategies and solutions that will be required to implement and sustain renewable energy projects.
Several presenters described the drivers for these projects as the need to increase sustainable development and local job creation, provide energy security, and achieve the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Technology and capital are only part of the picture, though. An often-repeated theme in the conference emphasized the importance of governments to create a favorable regulatory environment. California’s AB32 legislation passed in 2006 to reduce GHG emissions was offered as a model.
Travis Bradford, from the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, was the final presenter. He acknowledged the challenges these projects will face, but he encouraged attendees with the reminder that success is a journey that requires continual forward movement toward your goal. Success will be a multi-year process for many, no doubt, and CITD plans to make this an annual event to keep the process moving forward.
Strong Support from Federal, California and San Francisco Government
The process will be helped along with strong support from government at all levels. The City of San Francisco played official conference host, with support from state and federal government agencies. The host committee included United States political officials such as: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, US Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, California State Assembly member Jerry Hill and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
If you’d like to learn more, presentations and audio files of conference speakers will be available within a few weeks on the REEM09 website. Guatemala has been chosen as next year’s REEM conference location. How much can be accomplished in a year? It could be worth the trip to find out!

Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher based in Silicon Valley focused on business, technology and the environment. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on topics that include: sustainable business practices, clean tech, the environment and next generation transportation technologies. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Contact him at

Leave a Reply