Every February, Israel's favorite southern beach resort is turned into a pilgrimage site for clean-tech gurus taking part in the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference.
Eilat is a beach city, an escape for anyone looking to catch some of its year-round sun. Most days of the week, its visitors are wearing flip-flops rather than ties. That all changes in late February, when the city of Eilat and the greater Eilot region host the best Israeli energy event the country has to offer.
For the fourth year running, hundreds of guests from abroad are venturing to the southernmost tip of the Holy Land to make deals in Israel's lucrative clean-tech industry.
Run by the city's municipality, this week's Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference, which runs from February 22-24, will offer three days of networking, seminars and expositions for anyone and everyone interested in Israeli energy technologies - from banks and governments to utility companies and entrepreneurs.
Making the event even more attractive, the conference practices what it preaches by offering guests tours to the region's clean technology beta sites, like the Arava Power installation at Kibbutz Ketura, Aora's massive "flower" solar collector in the desert and Neot Smadar's passive cooling tower.
This year, it's a two-for-one: the conference is married to a clean-tech planning conference run by the European EUREKA industrial research program. This organization, whose rotating chairmanship is currently held by an Israeli, will offer a number of joint sessions at the Eilat event.
Granting an ‘in' to the Israeli sun
Installations showcased at this year's conference aim to answer the question that investors in Israeli green tech often ask: Why isn't Israel deploying more of its own technology at home?
With endless sunshine almost every day of the year, and the temperature rising to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the Eilat-Eilot region itself is becoming a clean technology pioneer by using its homegrown technologies to harness the sun's energy for local use.
Dorit Banet, executive director of the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Administration and co-chair of the annual conference, tells ISRAEL21c that "one of the ‘flavors' of the event this year will be about the Israeli government decisions made about two weeks ago for reducing [Israel's] greenhouse gas emissions, with a budget of 2.2 billion shekels," she says.
"The government offices will present their activities and grants and will explain how people can apply for these grants. Another aspect will be about the government's decision for oil substitutes that will take place in the first day. There will be a lot of experts from all over the world who will see how we can increase our oil independence, using other materials that can produce biofuels or gas."
Among the speakers from the renewable energy world will be Dr. Dan Arvizu, director and chief executive of the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). There will also be plenty of people ready to discuss financing joint ventures and technology, including representatives from Deutsche Bank and many VCs from the United States, in addition to government ministers energy regulators, entrepreneurs, environmentalists and scientists from around the world.
Time for a sun dance?
Smart grids will be a strong focal point this year, Banet says, as will talks about what's happening in Egypt. Israel's Better Place electric car company will be there, along with the solar energy company SolarEdge, a recent Red Herring winner; and international firms such as IBM, Siemens and Motorola.
The agenda includes sessions on technological innovations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, deploying smart grids and expanding solar and wind energy zoning, with panel discussions on the role of governments in promoting alternative energy projects and financing models for renewable energy projects. Case studies will be presented on successful energy projects, with special announcements of achievements expected over the next year.
About 2,000 visitors in total are expected at the event. Expect to see delegations from France, Canada, Korea, the United States, Spain and China roaming about. If the event's a success and many deals are made, maybe we can expect to see a few new faces dancing on the Eilat beach under the setting sun.