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Clean Tech Industry’s Call to Action 

clean tech no. 2-fall 2013

Interview conducted by Rachel Duran

The U.S. clean tech sector does well globally; however, it can do better.

 Cities and states have taken the lead in policy development in regard to the United States’ clean tech sector, fostering the industry’s development and expansion.

“Our book, Clean Tech Nation, is a call to action for the United States to do better on the clean tech stage in terms of being a global leader,” says Clint Wilder, co-author of the book. He is also the senior editor at Clean Edge Inc., a clean tech market analysis group. The organization also publishes “The U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index” each year.

The index is a tool for economic developers and municipal and state leaders to gauge how business friendly they might be in supporting clean tech companies. It also provides clean tech firms and investors insight into three categories of leadership: technology, policy and capital.

The index is divided into a state indicator and a metro indicator. The state indicator covers more than 70 metrics; the metro indicator tracks 50 of the largest metro regions in the United States, based on nearly two dozen metrics.

“Overall the U.S. does pretty well because some of the leading states and cities are not just national leaders but they are also global leaders in clean tech,” Wilder says. Clean Edge has a focus in clean tech and economic development at the city and state levels. Wilder says the firm analyzes four aspects of the clean tech industry:

*clean energy

*clean transportation

*clean materials

*clean water

Below, Wilder shares steps to further opportunities in the industry, as well as ways to overcome challenges.

Global Corporate Xpansion: What are the main points of the index?

Wilder: The index is a wide ranging leadership assessment, not just who has the most solar panels. Population numbers are taken into account. So even though California has been No. 1 for all four years of the survey, it isn’t because it is the most populous state; it is because the state has been a clean tech leader consistently across technology, policy and capital. For example, California is home to the nation’s only statewide greenhouse gas cap and trade system.

GCX: You note that the country can do better on the global clean tech stage. What are some suggestions?

Wilder: One of the things that would be great is if we had a national Green Infrastructure Bank. It would combine public and private capital to fund clean energy projects and other infrastructure projects. At the state level, Connecticut and New York, and the city of Chicago, have launched something similar.

Another idea is to pass greenhouse gas cap and trade systems. As mentioned previously, California is the only state that has this system. The first auction of carbon credits was held last year. This says to all businesses in California that if you are in a business that is helping reduce carbon or running a factory and you are cutting your carbon emissions, there is a financial incentive to do that. If your carbon emissions are higher, you will have to pay. It is a real recognition that we are really pushing to have a clean tech economy here in California.

clean tech sidebar-fall 2013

We also believe we should have a national Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This significant policy is simply a mandate that says investor-owned utilities, generally, should get 20 percent of their portfolio from renewable energy by 2020.

It is interesting to note, in general, some of the cleanest and most progressive utilities are in municipalities, such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Austin Energy in Texas.

If we look at our state index, of the states that rank in the top 25 overall, 23 of them have some form of RPS. We have another series of indicators to determine how strong, aggressive or how smart we think the RPS is.  If it is supposed to encourage renewable energy, the RPS shouldn’t include nuclear energy.

By contrast, of the 25 states in the bottom half of the index, only six have an RPS.

GCX: What other considerations should companies’ research when looking for a clean tech industry friendly environment?

Wilder: It certainly depends on what aspect you are involved in, but we here at Clean Edge think building codes are another important thing to look for. Is there a statewide policy in place to require some type of energy efficiency in commercial or residential buildings or both? If you are in the clean transportation space, is there a high efficiency vehicle requirement for city or state vehicles? Does the state or city seem like they are serious about making clean tech a big part of their economy?

Also, at the city level, is there a consortium or chamber of commerce type group dedicated to the clean tech industry? An example is CleanTECH San Diego. They have several hundred members, and work closely with the city government, the financial community and others to promote clean tech as an industry.

This is something many cities should be doing. These are quality jobs. In many cases, these are jobs that can’t be outsourced because you are building or installing things right there on the ground. These are skilled positions, utilizing STEM skills.

And on a personal level, if look at polls of younger people, they think climate change is a major problem and we should be doing more. You will attract smart young talent to your city when you demonstrate you have a lot going on in clean tech.

Click here for complete details on the U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, published by Clean Edge.

Iowa City, Iowa: Next Wave of Wind Energy is in Play
In the Iowa City region, located in southeast Iowa, officials believe the announcement by MidAmerica Energy that it plans to commission another $1.2 billion in wind energy developments in Iowa is a harbinger of good things to come. The company will add up to 1,050 megawatts of wind generation. Iowa City is home to the 173-acre Iowa City Wind Energy Supply Chain Campus, and located in between operations for Acciona Windpower and Clipper Windpower. The state of Iowa is home to 80 power supply chain companies, and ranks second nationally in total wind energy generation. The state’s cluster resources include the Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWind), a public-private research consortium. IAWind has conducted innovative research in regard to the castings in the wind turbines. “That is a big issue in the wind energy market, sourcing quality castings, and how to reduce the weight on those castings while keeping the quality and tolerances in check,” says Mark Nolte, president, Iowa City Area Development Group. Supplier companies find the Iowa City wind energy campus meets their needs such as power requirements, and the turning radius needed to move trailers loaded with blades and nacelles in and out of the campus. What’s more, the rail infrastructure at the campus can handle just under a stack train between the rail sidings and spur that extends into the campus, Nolte says. “There is a big benefit when your suppliers are proximate and can be part of your R&D team and work out issues and create more just-in-time opportunities than you can if your supply chain is spread all over the globe. “It is all about lowering that final delivery cost to consumers for power, which means lowering the cost of installation to the wind farm developer so you can start taking transportation costs out of your supply chain, and work together on improving the end product,” Nolte continues. “That is where there will be success in this market.” The wind energy industry has seen its challenges over the last few years, such as the delay in the renewal of the federal Production Tax Credit, and the rise in natural gas production. “We think the industry is poised for another growth spurt,” Nolte says. “And we want to have the infrastructure in place to support the companies we do have, as well as additional suppliers.” For complete details, visit www.techcorridorwind.com and www.icadgroup.com.

Illustration by Stuart Miles at Free Digital Photos.net

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About the author: Rachel Duran

Rachel Duran is the editor in chief for Global Corporate Xpansion. Contact her at rduran@latitude3.com.

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