In Israel, US sees opportunity for green tech and development

The Eilat-Eilot Green Energy Conference will be held next week.

Solar power (photo credit: REUTERS)
Solar power
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When Brian O’Hanlon arrives in Israel next week for the Eilat-Eilot Green Energy Conference, he will be looking for one thing – future leaders in green technology and business that can help the developing world.
O’Hanlon is the director for business development for renewable energy at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a branch of the US government that mobilizes private capital for development purposes.
“I’m looking for deals primarily, and I’m looking to partner with Israeli firms because I think they’re a great source of technological innovation in the countries I’m interested in,” O’Hanlon told The Jerusalem Post by phone Wednesday.
In the past seven years, OPIC has been looking increasingly toward renewable and clean energy as for-profit investments that can help developing countries prosper, growing its commitments in the fields to $1.2 billion from $10 million in 2007. None of those, he said, are non-performing loans.
“The question was, ‘Can we get [investing in renewables] to make economic sense, and the answer is a resounding yes,’” he told the Post.
When it comes to renewables, OPIC sees Israel as a source of innovation in both technology and businesses that can help people in developing countries.
“Renewable energy is critical in our discussion on how we address climate change, yes, but also how we get economies in developing energy to leapfrog the developed economies,” O’Hanlon said.
The term “leapfrogging” refers to the phenomenon of developing countries adopting new advanced technologies, skipping over the older technologies that are common in the process.
One of its most substantial investments was in a Jerusalem-based company’s project to build an 8.5-megawatt solar field in Rwanda, the first in East Africa.
That company, Energiya Global, is led by Yosef Abramowitz, who is chairing the Eilat-Eilot conference.
The conference will include the inauguration of a new technology center called the EE Off Grid Hub, which focuses on technology that provides energy, water and agriculture in developing countries without connecting the national grids.
A pre-conference event called EnergyVest is being held to match global investors with promising Israeli renewable-energy startups.
For the innovators who will be at the conference, O’Hanlon has a message: OPIC has money it wants to invest. Its current portfolio is worth $18b. but it has resources to grow it to $29b. Israeli companies with US ties and an eye toward the developing world can find in it a steady investor.
“Israel has a reputation of doing things that are very hard, so those are the folks that I want to be speaking to,” he said.