American Renewable Energy Day Summit kicks off in Snowmass Village

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
American Renewable Energy Day runs from today through Saturday in Snowmass Village.
Aspen Times file


What: American Renewable Energy Day Summit

When: Today through Saturday

Where: Snowmass Village

Cost: Prices vary by event; for more information, prices or a complete agenda, visit

What do block chain technology, the Black Lives Matter movement and renewable energy have in common?

They each relate to climate change, according to American Renewable Energy Day Summit founder Chip Comins, and will be addressed at the 15th annual conference happening at the Viceroy Snowmass today through Saturday.

The 2018 summit of top environmental leaders and climate experts boasts 176 speakers who will participate in more than 80 panel discussions, keynote addresses and networking events.

Each morning and night of the summit presents a different theme, with topics ranging from “Is Democracy a Sustainable Resource?” to “Achieving the New Carbon Economy: Bold Ideas, Technology, Sustainability and Peace.”

Of the summit’s packed schedule, Comins said he is known for a little saying if one complains about the lack of downtime between events:

“Climate change doesn’t give us a break, so we’re not going to give it one, either,” said Comins, who serves as chairman and chief executive officer of the American Renewable Energy Institute. The institute, which has a small office at the Aspen Business Center, produces the summit each year.

For the first time in the summit’s 15-year tenure, the institute will open three evenings of presentations and films to the public.

The overall theme of this year’s conference is “Global Security, Conservation Capitalism and Regeneration: Whole Systems Solutions to Climate Change.” In conjunction, the summit will focus on block chain technology, crypto-currency and how this new form of finance “can actually change our world in terms of the implementation of renewable energy,” Comins said.

Experts will address the future of economic and climate security throughout the week. Tuesday night, Veronica Garcia of BitLumins will explain how the firm distributes solar power devices without a power grid to rural areas of Guatemala and connect people to the block chain, which in turn helps alleviate poverty.

Special guests Hawk Newsome of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Rev. Gerald Durley, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., will lead the conversation, “We Shall Overcome: Where Can the Racial Justice and Climate Justice Movements Meet?” on Wednesday evening. Award-winning photographer James Balog’s newest film, “The Human Element,” will follow.

“We’re not just about renewable energy. We’re about Earth systems and atmospheric systems and ocean systems, food shed, water shed and forests and regenerative soil. We’re trying to take this approach of ‘all in’ to connect the dots,” Comins said. “But we don’t want to just talk about it; we want to forge the strategic partnerships and create the dialogue going forward so that the most important day of ARE Day is the day we all leave and take that information that we’ve just learned and (figure out) how do we pay it forward.”

Another major topic the summit will tackle that’s more recently gained steam locally and internationally is the issue of plastics and the ocean.

Jean-Michel Cousteau and Sylvia Earle will open the summit Monday with a panel discussion of what’s on the horizon for oceans. Hannah Testa, the 15-year-old environmental activist behind “Hannah4Change,” also will speak at the summit this week.

In terms of climate change, Comins believes the plastic problem and “our addiction to oil” are some of the most pressing issues facing today’s world.