A case for renewable energy in Davos

ESolar chief executive officer Bill Gross

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: All this week, we're giving you special coverage of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Our Europe correspondent Stephen Beard is there. So are hordes of politicians, economists, celebrities and business people like Bill Gross. He's the CEO of the Pasadena Company eSolar. He has a contract to build a series of solar thermal plants in China. Bill, welcome to the show.

Bill Gross: Thank you very much.

Radke: Where does your project with China fall in the scale of U.S.-China renewable energy projects?

Gross: Well this is one of the biggest projects ever. It will power hundreds of thousands of homes, maybe millions of homes. And we hope this is just the tip of the iceberg, that people emulate and repeat this all over. We'll be doing other deals like that in the United States and India and also hopefully in China. We hope this is a firing shot that you can make renewable energy that really can be competitive with fossil fuels.

Radke: So what specifically are you trying to get done in Davos, Switzerland this week?

Gross: Well we're trying to spread the word that renewables can be competitive with fossil fuels, that there don't have to be excessive subsidies. Cause governments can't support this and prop this up forever. The only way the world's going to switch to renewable energy is if it's actually cheaper.

Radke: But who doesn't like excessive subsidies, Bill? Why spread that word?

Gross: Well the reason why I'm spreading that word is we renewables have had this attitude that we need too much of a gift to make them happen. And my contention is if you really want to change the planet -- if you really want to make lots of jobs, by the way, this is enormous for creating jobs -- if you really want to do that, it's just going to have to compete on a level playing field.

Radke: And how can the people in Switzerland this week level that playing field for renewable energy?

Gross: Well what has to happen, there have to be very clear policies in place. Up to this point, if you want to build a renewable power plant, you have to go through the same environmental impact studies as a coal plant, even though they're zero emissions. Well that's kind of ridiculous -- if they're zero emissions, you shouldn't have to do that kind of study. And there's just an opportunity for people to really understand the true economics and the true competitive nature. And I think that's going to go back to respective countries and really help shape things to make the level playing field that I'm asking for.

Radke: Bill Gross is CEO of eSolar, and he's at the annual World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland. Thanks so much, Bill.

Gross: Thank you very much for having me.

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