DENVER: The first time I heard the term “mug-me” badges, I was a 25-year old trade editor attending a trade show in New York. I left the Jacob K. Javits Center still wearing my show badge. My editor at the time, a kindly gentleman whose only goal was to keep me alive, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Take your badge off. If you don’t, you look like a tourist, and you’re just begging someone to mug you.”
That’s good advice for anyone, and although I’ve never felt threatened here in Denver, I still make a point 16 years later of taking my badge off before I leave a convention center no matter where I am. But I have noticed here in the World Renewable Energy Forum that people aren’t as fastidious as I am about this. As I was riding the elevator, I saw at least two people wearing the badges. I made a point to telling them about the idea of “mug-me” badges, trying to pass on the wisdom of my elders now that I myself am one. The response? Laughter.
I guess I’m not a helpful sage — I’m just old.
Here are a few observations from the show floor and the sessions out here in Denver:
- I heard a great presentation from Joanna Lewis, an assistant professor of science, technology and international affairs from Georgetown University, on U.S.-China technology transfer and the effect it has had on the renewable energy industry. She believes that both sides need to ratchet down the rhetoric and look for ways to collaborate instead of battle, and she offered other options that the sides could use to resolve issues. It’s something everyone in the industry needed to hear, but unfortunately the session was sparsely attended.
- Speaking of lightly attended, I’ve been a little surprised at how many of the sessions I’ve seen have three or four people in them. Let’s face it: With 1,800 total attendees, there shouldn’t be sessions like that.
- As I walked the show floor yesterday, I had heard from several major companies say that they will likely pull out of this show next year. They say the attendees aren’t key customers, and the show is just getting too small to justify the investment of getting a booth and a team to this show. They don’t feel they are getting the appropriate bang for their book here. It will be interesting to see how well attended next year’s show in Baltimore is.
- I can’t believe I had forgotten this, but thankfully my good friend Devon Cichoski of SolarWorld reminded me so I’m on high alert. The U.S. Department of Commerce, which has been investigating Chinese solar panel manufacturers since October 2011 to see if they are illegally distorting the market, will be handing down its decision in an anti-dumping complaint filed last fall by a coalition of solar panel manufacturers. (For a little background on the issue, I covered the first part of this decision in this post of mine from PV America West in March.) The decision on tariffs was disappointing to U.S. manufacturers, but Chinese companies were thrilled. There were wildly diverse predictions about how the tariff decision was going to go, and the same is going on about tomorrow’s announcement. All I will predict is that the people here at the World Renewable Energy Forum will be on the edge of their seats — and I will report on the story as soon as I get information.
I’ve learned a lot so far at this conference despite its size, so I’m glad I came. There will be more reporting to come as I am here for the duration. Stay tuned.