Big name speakers deliver powerful message of inclusion at RE+ 2023 opening


North America’s premier solar and energy storage event kicks off today in Las Vegas, with RE+ organizers pulling out all the stops in the event’s opening ceremony. High-profile speakers graced the stage at a slick opening event.

The mood at the ceremony was ebullient, given the investment surge currently underway in the United States on the back of the Investment Reduction Act (IRA). Senator Ossoff noted, in his opening address, that “more than $100 billion in private capital,” has be attracted since the passage of the IRA, with announcements of “at least 51 solar manufacturing facilities across the US” having been made.

But it was the message delivered by the celebrity speakers that was perhaps most powerful.

Actor and comedian Kal Penn, who had served in the Obama administration as the President’s Liaison to Young Americans, argued that the advocacy of young people had played an important role in the IRA’s realization in delivering impetus to political leaders to take action on climate change. And that they have an ongoing and important place in America’s clean energy rollout.

Van Jones, another Obama administration alumni, activist lawyer, author, and CNN host, doubled down on the message of inclusion. He argued forcefully that people of color and underprivileged communities must be included in clean energy adoption, production, and installation both for the impact it would have and for the positive contribution it can make to the solar and storage industries.

“We’re not looking for pity, we’re looking for partners to help you clean up,” said Jones. He noted that black communities can be powerful allies to the clean technology community.

“We have seriously cultural firepower,” said Jones. “The black church is an incredible galvanizer,” he noted, adding that black communities can contribute financially, as customers, and provide scale and political cover as the energy transition accelerates.

“It ain’t charity, we are powerful people with a lot of potential, purchasing power, political power who are looking for partners.”

Abigail Ross Hopper, the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said that RE+ is expected to attract 35,000 participants in 2023. 13,000 exhibitors are participating at the event.

Ross Hopper launched SEIA’s “Solar and Storage Workplace Survey” at the RE+ opening. The survey hopes to “identify equity and opportunity gaps,” in the solar and storage workforce and contribute to inclusive practices as solar and energy storage surges in America.

RE+ is being held at the Venetian Expo and Caesar’s Forum Ballroom, September 11-14. The pv magazine USA team has produced a special edition of the magazine as a guide to the event.


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