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Clean-energy summit will showcase Hawaii

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Although it may have caught us by surprise, there’s a significant tech event coming Aug. 30 through Sept. 2: the Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit at the Hawai’i Convention Center.

In 2009 the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s inaugural summit attracted 800 people from 14 countries and Pacific islands. Some considered it a modest success. Others felt it was a platform built for the governor to crow about her 2008 Clean Energy Initiative.

This year the summit is more ambitious. DBEDT has outsourced management to CTSI, a mainland energy "coordinator" charging from $395 to $1,095 for admission. It’s designed to appeal to heavy hitters in Washington and the Pacific and to lead to "partnerships" among industry, government and utilities.

The top speakers are a who’s who, including Gov. Linda Lingle, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and VIP officials from the Department of Energy and the Navy, with a myriad of energy executives and policymakers from Hawaii, the Pacific and the mainland. There are 125 in all, populating two courses, five tracks and multiple keynotes.

Going in, DBEDT and CTSI are optimistic that the program will go beyond gubernatorial legacy bites and that the payload for Hawaii will be tangible. But do we really need mainland management? Maybe, if it helps us get the VIPs and visitors in the door to exchange with local entrepreneurs and students.

They want it to be an exhibition for technology and a showcase for Hawaii as a melting pot for clean energy. Despite expectations, it’s not yet clear that 2010 will exceed 2009 — this is an election year and the events calendar is bristling.

Last week, Darren Kimura’s Energy Industries Corp. was awarded an energy efficiency retrofitting contract by a large packing plant in Oregon. This is all part of Kimura’s plan to bring Hawaii energy to the world.

And it’s what DBEDT Energy Administrator Ted Peck means when he talks about making Hawaii an energy model for the world. We have the resources, so what we need to do is get the world to think of us as a global leader.

That’s why the summit holds so much promise. It means that the world might beat a path to our door for our energy expertise and development experience, not just for sand and surf. These energy ideas could be a lucrative export.

The summit is perfect for a Hawaii-based global event, and like APEC that’s what Hawaii needs, much more than endgame political rhetoric. It can help us get connected and respected. The networking, like that at meetings of the Pacific Telecommunications Council, could be worth its weight in gold.

We know we’re behind where we wanted to be by 2010. And although no one seriously expects brilliant energy deals and investments to spring right out of the first cocktail party, there is the possibility that will happen.

The energy bell is ringing, so let’s all plan to go down to the Convention Center and see what we can do. It’s not only for the benefit of those who show up; it’s for the future of the summit itself, as an event that could continue and prosper under administrations and generations yet to be born.

Jay Fidell, a longtime business lawyer, founded ThinkTech Hawaii, a digital media company that reports on Hawaii’s tech and energy sectors of the economy. He can be reached at


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