Conference discusses green technology in Israel
What do a rabbi, a GE official and an oil independence specialist have in common? They all presented at a conference for AU’s Center for Israeli Studies and Kogod School of Business Feb. 7 in the School of International Service building. The conference, “Greener, Cleaner, Better: Israeli Innovation in Greentech,” presented advancements in renewable energy, electric cars and the global impact of green technology. It featured three separate panel presentations. Michael Granoff, the oil independency policy head for Israeli company Better Place, gave a keynote address on electric cars. Granoff explored why electric cars have not caught on in the United States, while they are a major innovation in Israel. “U.S. politicians will lump all energy solutions into one energy conflation, and then say there is no silver bullet to the situation,” Granoff said. However, Granoff said he believes companies like Better Place are providing energy solutions. Better Place, an electric car company that is looking to accelerate the transition to sustainable transportation, sees the future of cars and the planet directly linked to transitioning from fossil fuels to electricity, Granoff said. The average American household spent $4,000 on gasoline in 2010, approximately $2,000 more than a decade ago, Granoff said. Better Place’s electric cars run on 100-mile rechargeable batteries that can be exchanged at “battery switch stations” that are robotically run, Granoff said. In Israel, a 100-mile battery allows consumers to drive a sizable distance and has prompted a high demand for the cars. However, the same cannot be said for the United States, Granoff said. Better Place builds their system similar to a cell phone network system: •Build up a network of charging stations in urbanized areas, •Focus on the main arteries to-and-from the cities and •Reach the surrounding regions. Better Place looks to make electrification both practical with its battery switch stations and affordable with monthly pay plans that are set at a fixed price until 2016. “Transportation is indispensable, but cost has not always been predictable,” Granoff said. “This makes it predictable.” Panel members at the conference covered a wide gamut of other green technologies including solar and water. Joshua Bar Lev, co-founder of the solar and thermal energy company Brightscource, spoke about the potential of power plants that utilize natural reusable resources such as the sun. “Combine geography and policy to get your projects underway in a way that makes sense and is marketable in that area,” said Bar Lev, referencing solar fields in the southwestern deserts in the United States that Brightscource is looking to install. Eilon Adar, director of the Zuckerberg Institute of Water Research, presentation’s theme was that academia is not implementing enough of its research in the field of green technology. Less than 4 percent of academic ventures reach the consumer, and, more often than not, ideas get published in journals and then die on shelves, Adar said. However, the final panel, Rabbi Fred Sherlinder-Dobb, Eco-Sense’s past president Scott Berman and AU alumna Allison Gold, tried to end on a more positive note. “Kermit the Frog said it best: ‘It’s hard to be green,’” Sherlinder-Dobb said.