Assistant Secretary of Commerce Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale
Manufacturing and Services
Renewable Energy Financing Forum - Latin America and Caribbean (REFF-LAC)
Wednesday , February 23, 2011
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Mike, for that kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be here at the inaugural Renewable Energy Financing Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean.
I understand you are retiring soon from ACORE and want to wish you well. Under your leadership, ACORE has been a key voice in this sector for some time – and I think the growth in renewable energy over the last decade can be, at least in part, attributed to your single-minded focus on promoting the industry.
I also want to thank the Latin American and Caribbean Council on Renewable Energy (LAC- CORE) for organizing this event; you can gauge the level of enthusiasm that exists for deploying renewable energy technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean from the attendance at this event and from the quality of speakers on the agenda.
THE BENEFITS OF CLEAN ENERGY
One of the great things about renewable energy is that it can accomplish so many important things at once. Clean energy means economic growth for countries around the world; it can address climate change, reduce health risks, and promote energy security.
And it can do all these things in the Latin American and Caribbean region, where the prospects of clean, renewable energy are so significant.
But let us be clear: investing in clean energy is not just environmentally responsible, but good business. Clean energy companies are investing in cutting-edge technologies that are helping to meet the energy needs of citizens around the world.
From wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydropower, and energy-from-waste technologies, the business opportunity in the sector is staggering.
Even in the midst of the worst global recession since the Great Depression, global investment in the clean energy sector grew. In 2008 and 2009, global investment in the sector grew 10% when other industries experienced very little – if any – growth. By 2010, global investment in the sector was close to $200 billion.
Over 100 countries now have policy incentives to drive deployment of renewable energy technologies, including seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The reason for this is simple: In the next few decades, both the United States and many of the nations of Latin America will need to rebuild and reinvent virtually every industrial activity, from power generation and transportation to manufacturing and construction.
To be competitive in a globalized world, our industries will need to run more efficiently and sustainably. For in the years ahead, it will be those economies that embrace sustainability – not has a hindrance to economic growth, but a cause of it – that will most succeed.
So when I talk about the potential for job creation from renewable energy – both in the United States and Latin America – I am not just talking about someone working for a solar or wind company.
I am talking about creating an entirely new model of economic growth with the potential to create thousands – if not millions – of new jobs. Think for a moment about the types of jobs renewable energy can create:
Engineers and manufacturers developing more efficient and cost competitive wind turbines, solar panels, and biomass conversion techniques;
Mechanics building a new electricity grid with sensors and controls that monitor and distribute renewable energy more effectively;
Construction workers building new power plants; and
Environmental consultants helping companies and governments become more sustainable.
Put simply, the development of the clean energy and energy efficiency technologies has the potential to spur one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.
THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION – LEADING THE GREEN ECONOMY
This is one reason the Obama Administration has made unprecedented investments in renewable energy. We, at the Department of Commerce, are committed to ensuring that American leadership in the sector remains strong and impactful.
Through the Recovery Act, President Obama invested over $90 billion in clean energy technologies; the Administration passed the toughest fuel economy standards in history, and has incentivized the most stringent energy efficiency upgrades in buildings, appliances and consumer electronics in more than a generation.
The response to these investments demonstrates the positive role governments can play in spurring job creation in clean energy. The Administration’s $90 billion investment in clean energy spurred $110 billion in additional capital from the private sector.
NATIONAL EXPORT INITIATIVE AND RE4I
Of course, spurring domestic clean energy innovation is only half of the picture. Exporting U.S.-made renewable energy technologies to foreign markets, where demand for renewable energy technologies is increasing dramatically, is the other half.
That is one of the many reasons the Department of Commerce led the development of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative – an effort of eight separate U.S. Government agencies.
Exports are already a central part of the Obama Administration's economic recovery strategy. Last year, President Obama announced his National Export Initiative, or NEI, which aims to double total U.S. exports in five years in support of two million American jobs.
There have, of course, been previous efforts by the federal government to promote exports in the past. What sets the NEI apart is that it is the first Presidentially-led export promotion initiative and a commitment to serve as a full partner with U.S. companies, helping to promote American-made goods and services worldwide.
The five pillars of the NEI are (1) improving trade advocacy and export promotion efforts; (2) increasing access to credit, especially for small and midsize businesses; (3) removing barriers to the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad; (4) enforcing trade rules; and (5) pursuing policies at the global level to promote strong, sustainable, and balanced growth.
Promoting the exports of U.S. industries, especially high-technology, high-growth industries like renewable energy, will help America “win the future” by showcasing America’s leadership in innovation and technology development.
The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative – or RE4I – will help meet the goals of the NEI, while turning the lens of the NEI on the high-growth sector of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
In particular, the RE4I will better tailor U.S. Government financing products to the specific needs of the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector.
For instance, under the Initiative, OPIC will offer a new subordinated debt product geared towards energy efficiency improvements. The financing will cover 100% of the projects’ costs and can be paid back with cost-savings from the efficiency improvements over time.
Importantly, the United States is not alone in its desire to promote renewable energy. We must work with our many trading partners, removing barriers and encouraging the free and fair exchange of goods and services. This is why an important part of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative is a commitment to enhancing market access for U.S. companies.
Once markets are open, it becomes important for U.S. companies to get their technologies in front of foreign buyers. Across the supply chain, U.S. companies can provide products and expertise in almost every renewable energy or energy efficiency industry.
Knowing this, the Department of Commerce will lead several renewable energy trade missions to countries around the world over the next few years, showcasing U.S. technologies in foreign markets.
What’s more, we have begun the process of better targeting markets for trade missions based on a systematic study of future export potential.
Lastly, we are focused on making U.S. Government services more efficient and worthwhile for exporters. Responding to suggestions to make trade promotion services more readily available and easy-to-find, we’ve created a new online web portal for renewable energy and energy efficiency exporters.
The new website – export.gov/reee – provides information from across the U.S. Government on market research, upcoming events, and answers to frequently asked questions in a single, easy-to-use portal.
WHAT THE RE4I MEANS FOR FOREIGN BUYERS OF U.S. TECHNOLOGY
By streamlining our export promotion efforts, we will help U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies flow faster into markets around the world that need them.
For buyers of U.S. technology, the RE4I will ensure your suppliers have access to the U.S. Government services they need to make sales easier, timelier, and ultimately more affordable.
RENEWABLE ENERGY OPPORTUNITIES IN LATIN AMERICA
As we implement the RE4I, we are mindful that perhaps no region offers more long-term growth prospects for renewable energy than Latin America and the Caribbean.
From the world-class wind resources of Brazil and Argentina; to the solar potential of Mexico and the Caribbean; to the geothermal potential of Chile and Central America; and the biomass and hydropower capacity of almost every county in the region – Latin America enjoys one of the world’s best resource bases for renewable energy.
And importantly, countries throughout the region have seized on this potential and have committed themselves to utilizing their renewable energy potential. It is a commitment that is clearly having an effect.
When Chile passed new incentives to encourage geothermal development, investors and project developers from around the world began investing in their market; when Brazil announced a new tender for wind power development, private-sector companies descended on the country to bid on the potential projects.
And yet like many countries, the scourge of protectionism is still common in Latin America. I urge all countries in the region to remove barriers to trade in renewable energy – our countries need renewable energy too badly to restrict trade with unnecessary barriers.
U.S. GOVERNMENT EFFORTS IN LATIN AMERICA
I want to make clear that the U.S. Government is committed to helping Latin America reach its full potential for renewable energy.
Through hemispheric initiatives like the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, bilateral energy policy dialogues, or global climate change negotiations – like the COP-16 meeting that Mexico hosted last December – we have seen the U.S. Government turn its attention to Latin America and the Caribbean like never before.
At the Department of Commerce, we are pleased to see several U.S. renewable energy companies already exporting their products or services to the region. But we want to see more.
That is why we provided an award to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through the Market Development Cooperator Program, also known as MDCP, focused on increasing green tech exports to Brazil.
In addition to co-organizing trade missions – the first of which will visit Brazil at the end of August – we will partner with the Chamber on a wide range of activities including webinars, standards and IPR seminars, and reverse trade missions.
We are also implementing a MDCP award with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association to help coordinate smart grid standards between the United States and Mexico and expand the market for trade in these key technologies that will drive energy efficiency.
And we are continuing to execute an MDCP award with the Colorado Center for
International Trade, helping to bring U.S. clean energy companies to Mexico as well.
Let me close by saying this: If you are building a renewable energy power plant in Latin America or the Caribbean, I urge you to consider purchasing technology or expertise from a U.S. company.
The United States is home to several world-class renewable energy companies, whose technology can help your project be successful; the Department of Commerce is here to help you make that purchase a success.
Our U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service has offices in 14 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and a representative at the Inter-American Development Bank. These professionals are great points of contact for you and can help link your needs to specific suppliers from the United States.
If you are a U.S. company interested in exporting to Latin America, please also consider contacting a Foreign Commercial Service post – they can be great resources for learning about a particularly market and can help establish contacts for you that might ultimately lead to an export sale. You can reach them by first contacting your local Department of Commerce Export Assistant Center.
Thank you for your time today. I look forward to working with you as partners and advocates to help facilitate the greater use of renewable energy in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This is a tremendous opportunity for the region, and I am confident the Obama Administration will be a great partner an ensuring a win-win situation for both U.S. companies and Latin America as we jointly seek to deploy the clean energy solutions our countries need.
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