Blog Post

Challenging the Energy Industry Status Quo: A Recap of AREDAY 2015

Earlier this month, our CEO Catherine Von Burg and our COO Deborah Keiser were fortunate to be invited to the American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) 12th Annual Summit 2015. Catherine gave a keynote speech on the topic of Grid Parity for Renewable Generation and the Future of Power Storage and was joined by other world-renowned thought leaders on climate and energy solutions.

“Each day, the event evolved to reveal and present substance, good thinking and a lack of tolerance for the status quo. It was the perfect community for two energy warriors like us,” jokes Deborah.

“Being at the event was inspiring and brought to the forefront the critical juncture our planet is in. Large centralized delivery systems for food, water and power create a consumer dependence that engenders a disconnect between the origin and the consumption of a vital resource. One of the major tenets of SimpliPhi is to empower people to generate and store their own power. As other AREDAY contributors articulated, this empowerment must also include sustainable food production and water stewardship as well,” said Catherine.

Catherine’s Keynote on Renewables Reaching Grid Parity

AREDAY asked Catherine to give a keynote presentation on how renewable energy is increasingly reaching grid parity with fossil fuels and what the future of energy storage is in terms of achieving this goal.

Grid Parity is generally defined as the point at which the cost of renewably generated electricity (PV & Wind) becomes competitive with the retail rate (price point) of grid power. Catherine’s primary assertion was that grid parity already exists. It’s simply that the fossil fuel industry does not have to include into its price point the environmental and economic fallout associated with extracting, generating and transmitting centrally delivered oil, gas and coal such that those associated costs are reflected in the price of a gallon of gas or a kWh of electricity.

“Gas and oil price points are artificially low due to subsidies and favorable tax structures that serve to obfuscate these costs,” she told the AREDAY audience. “Therefore, price points alone should not, cannot establish the basis for assessing true parity between renewable energy, like sun and wind, and fossil fuel sources of power.”

Catherine went on to say that the discussion and economic analysis of grid parity ought to be predicted on the differentiation between the true costs associated with the acquisition and delivery of a generation source (oil vs. renewable) and the price point enjoyed by consumers.

The International Energy Agency pegs global subsidies for fossil fuels totaled nearly $550 billion in 2013. For renewables, the amount was 80% less, at $120 billion. 
So, Catherine delivered a call to action to develop econometric models that more accurately capture true costs that are differentiated from price points.

She also covered how, like the grid, renewable sources of power are intermittent and unpredictable in emergency and blackout scenarios in which the centralized delivery of power breaks down. This variability in any generation source is eliminated with efficient power storage.

“It takes the intermittency out of any power source, creating power security and resiliency for people: anytime, anywhere,” she said.

As always, Catherine’s words were impactful, accurate and detailed, inspiring people to see the energy opportunity and freedom with SimpliPhi Power storage and management beyond the limits of transmission lines.

“My presentation was an attempt to highlight the challenge we face in terms of climate change, the adoption of renewable power and the false perception that fossil fuels and renewables are competing on a level playing field,” commented Catherine. “In order for the renewable and non-toxic energy storage markets to compete against the entrenched interests of the fossil fuel industry, it will take an honest discussion and a detailed and accurate financial analysis as to the true cost of a power generation source, from its extraction to its generation to its transmission. The environmental and human fallout from the fossil fuel industry alone is estimated to be in the billions of dollars annually. Yet, these costs, much like the government subsidies, are not included in the price of a gallon of gas or a kWh of electricity. If they were factored in,consumers would be making very different purchasing decisions.

“At times, this call to action feels like a daunting task. Nevertheless, many talented people and inspiring companies, including SimpliPhi, are taking on this challenge. It’s an exhilarating time to be working in this space.”

Sustainable Farming

There are many people, groups and even investors who want to get more involved in sustainable food, agriculture and farming. One company the SimpliPhi execs met with from this sector at AREDAY is named Sustainable Settings, based in Carbondale, CO.

“They are looking toward integrating off-grid power for their farm equipment and their new organic and A2 Dairy operations in particular,” said Deborah.

The founder of Sustainable Settings, Brook LeVan, has a show on GrassRoots TV aimed at protecting and nurturing channels of open communication for the citizens of Roaring Fork Valley, CO. Brook asked Catherine to be a guest on the show, and you can watch that full interview here.

Government and Utility

“Both government and utility grid representatives promoted forward-looking policy and budget allocations to renewables,” says Catherine. “Though unnecessary antipathy between the utilities and proponents of renewable generation threaten to undermine meaningful collaboration at times, we believe that some bridges, connections and partnerships were built between the two at AREDAY.


In an armchair conversation, General Wesley Clark, now with Growth Energy, spoke with Timothy E. Wirth, vice chair of the United Nations Foundation on the barriers and geopolitics surrounding renewable energy, national security and climate change.

“These military leaders served our country and did their duty leading a war in Iraq. It’s a common understanding that the defense of oil security for the U.S. was a major underlying motivator to that war, despite pretenses of instilling freedom in the region. It’s remarkable and inspiring to see and hear these leaders not only embrace renewable energy and energy storage solutions, but to lead the charge to shift the military off of fossil fuels,” said Catherine.

Catherine and Deborah left AREDAY feeling very appreciative for all the efforts individuals, communities, technologists, military personnel, policy makers and investors are undertaking to reverse the tide of global climate change across the energy, food


AREDAY Dinner. From L-R: Sally Jewell Coxe President Bonobo Conservation Initiative, invited guest, Catherine Von Burg CEO SimpliPhi Power, Brook LeVan Director Sustainable Settings, Deborah Keiser COO SimpliPhi Power, and Woody Tasch Chairman Slow Money.

and water sectors. Having the opportunity to collaborate and build partnerships with such innovative leaders definitely recharges our batteries!