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by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) May 14, 2012
As Oilprice.com embarks on its Top 5 series, we thought it expedient to begin with our take on the key figures shaping and influencing U.S. renewable energy efforts, not least because the issue of energy security is being prioritized in campaigning ahead of U.S. presidential elections.
In considering from the numerous choices for these top five slots, we take into account a number of variables, including investment in renewable energy, the ability to influence policy and shape public opinion, and advocacy efforts. This goes well beyond simply counting coin - it is about innovation, imagination, vision, risk and patience. Arguably, these people will play an important role in your life and leisure, for better or worse. These are our picks:
Steven Chu - The China Link
While the last century saw him win the Nobel Prize, this century earned him R and D Magazine's Scientist of the Year award for 2011. In announcing his appointment as Secretary of Energy, President Obama said that the "future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy [and] Steven has blazed new trails ...". Chu's most tangible successes have been the government's investment in geothermal and offshore wind projects.
Indeed, Chu is one of the world's leading authorities on renewable energy; and on a geopolitical level, his influence reaches to China. Chu is a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has trained prominent scientists in China and helped to establish the Bio-X Center at Jiaotong University in Shanghai - all of this gives him valuable access to Chinese politicians.
Dan Reicher - Energy Guru
Today, he's practicing his innovation at Stanford University, which chose him to lead its new $7 million center to study and advance the development and deployment of clean energy technologies through innovative policy and finance.
Stanford alumni Thomas Steyer and Kat Thomas donated the $7 million and trust in Reicher to lead the university's efforts, which they said "is uniquely positioned to change our nation's attitudes and capabilities regarding how we make and use energy. What our university did for the information revolution, it must now do for the energy revolution."
Broadly, the Stanford center will conduct research on energy policy and finance, with a particular focus on legislative, regulatory and business tools - all intended to boost public support for funding clean energy technologies. It also hopes to produce world-class research for policymakers, the business community, and technology leaders. Reicher is influential in the renewable energy world on a number of levels, from finance to policy to advocacy. Not only does he have the ear of the government on policy, he also has the $7 million Stanford research effort at his disposal.
Elon Musk - Iron Man
He also chairs the board of SolarCity, a start-up focused on photovoltaics products and services aimed at climate change solutions. Most recently, Musk created the first viable electric car of the modern era, the high-end Tesla Roadster sports.
The Tesla Roadster will be followed by the four-door Model S sedan, scheduled to release in July, and the ModelX (a sort of SUV/minivan hybrid), slated for production in 2013. Musk's vision: making electric cars affordable to mass-market consumers thereby making a huge footprint in American and global energy efficiency and security. The Roadster is a high-end vehicle that will only attract the wealthy, but that is the point: Roadster revenues can fund research and development for lower-priced electric cars.
Countless awards and honors have come Musk's way, from the Heinlein Price for Advances in Space Commercialization in 2011 to inclusion on Forbes' list of "America's 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under" that same year.
Incidentally, Mush designed the first privately developed rocket to reach orbit and served as the inspiration for the genius billionaire Tony Stark in the Iron Man movie series. He also made it onto TIME Magazine's (often dubious) list of 100 most influential people in 2010.
Eddie O'Connor - Supergrid Superhero
O'Connor is behind the creation of some amazing onshore and offshore wind farm projects in Europe, North America, South America and South Africa, and is perhaps best known for his promotion of the European Offshore Supergrid, which envisions electricity interconnectivity on a scale that would entirely transform the European energy scene. O'Connor's work has been extremely influential on global policy and he has certainly earned his place among the world's most innovative public figures. He combines ideas with advocacy and action.
Paul Woods - The Algae King
Most recently Algenol was forced to shelve expansion plans after concerns were raised about potential environmental consequences, but in April expansion plans were back on track and in full force. We like Woods because he's a risk-taker and not one who will give up easily. We're hedging our bets that algae will play a major role in America's future energy security. Jen Alic
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