Converts Climb Aboard Clean Energy Bus
Bill Clinton's getting downright green.
And he's not the only one. A whole slew of corporate magnates, political leaders and
members of the establishment are buying into the economic benefits of energy savings
In an interview in which Clinton discussed clean energy, jobs and how the two could
resurrect the stagnant economy, he suggests increasing energy efficiency retrofits of
government buildings and universities and decentralize energy generation by adding
"Big centralized power stations would be used for things like manufacturing," he says.
Making it work
Clinton advises approaching clean energy from a capitalist perspective with the
questions: "How can we make a dollar out of this?" and "How can we put people to
work?" He spoke with Aaron Task on Yahoo's Daily Ticker.
But the former president appears to be pointing out the obvious. The green clean
energy movement looks as if it will rocket ahead without any assistance from the
White House or Congress. Not that a nod from a jobs package would hurt.
In an interview with Smart Grid News that appeared on cleantechies.com, economists
Ahmad Faruqui and Doug Mitarotonda of The Brattle Group predict U.S. electricity
demand will decline between 5 percent and 15 percent over the next decade. This
despite an increase in personal electronics use. The two economists cite a "new wave
of energy efficiency" where building managers and electricity consumers monitor
energy use and adjust accordingly via new technology.
Solar bounds past setbacks
And despite the setback of Solyndra's bankruptcy and federal investigation, solar
doesn't look to be slowing down. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy
Industries Association's latest quarterly U.S. Solar Market Insight report, the domestic
photovoltaics market grew 69 percent in second quarter 2011 from the same period a
's Eric Wesoff reports that the United States
has surpassed the 1 gigawatt, or 1 billion watt, mark for installed solar and looks to
pass the 2 gigawatt threshold next year.
Industry posts growth
Not too shabby. And prospects look good for that trend to continue. The Solar
Foundation's latest study finds 100,237 jobs in the industry as of August 2011 and
growth of 6.8 percent in August 2011 from the same period a year earlier.
Brian Keane, president of nonprofit SmartPower, says policymakers would be wise to
study those numbers carefully. He says Solyndra's demise is outweighed by "countless
industry success stories" and cites SolarCity's contract with the U.S. Department of
Defense to install 160,000 rooftop solar installations on military housing complexes at
124 military bases across 34 states.
"The company hopes to fill many of those jobs with veterans and military family
members," Keane says in a piece on Huffington Post.
The corporate end is also making renewable waves. Behemoth Walmart, the No. 1
U.S. employer, has announced a plan to install solar panels on about 60 more stores in
California, which means more than three quarters of its outlets in the state will be so
Kim Saylors-Laster, Walmart vice president of energy, says in a statement:
"California presents a great opportunity for Walmart to make significant progress
toward our sustainability goals."
Just can't beat that.
The Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Corps, a crew of 96 graduate students,
worked this year with 78 companies, cities and universities to find energy efficiency
measures. The corps found installed savings of 600 million kilowatt hours annually
and total lifetime energy savings of $650 million.
Green crossing party lines
of the nation's most important cities relevant in an age of climate unrest. Shawn
Lesser of the International Business Times says Bloomberg "has been instrumental in
motivating a number of other large cities to make changes."
The New York mayor's top 10 list of clean energy initiatives has received a lot of
press and likely will be scrutinized by other cities across the globe. Bloomberg
severed his ties with the GOP in 2007 to become an independent.
And I'm not sure on this account, but I believe the wise investment in energy
efficiency and energy management in buildings and manufacturing will attract other
high-ranking members of the Republican Party into the ranks of green believers. And
as solar and wind energy costs continue to fall, more likely will adopt a friendlier
public posture to renewables.
Sean Patrick Hazlett of
the GOP include presidential candidates Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney, Sen. John
McCain, R-Ariz., New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and George Schultz at the Hoover
Lighting up the grid
Expect dramatic change in how electricity is produced, marketed and used in the next
decade. a Boulder, Colo.-based research group says in a recent report that "the past
decade has seen tremendous growth in competitive electricity procurement by
commercial, industrial and institutional purchasers." It also lists electricity as a $360
billion per year market in this country.
Everybody's looking for the best deal. Combine that with mandates like California's
Global Warming Solutions Act, which calls for a third of energy generation to come
renewable sources by 2020, and opportunities for purveyors of green energy will
benefit. Investments made now could pay off in spades down the road.
They could tank too. Everything depends on the art of the deal, and that's why the
entry of shrewd business people is a good thing for clean energy.
Clean energy worth billions
The evidence, however, mounts that this clean energy stuff may be worthwhile. Justin
Gillis of the New York Times reports that a business consortium that includes
Lockheed Martin and Barclays bank plans to invest about $650 million to
Gillis writes that many people believe the program could be worth billions. He says
the consortium was formed by the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit environmental
group set up by British corporate heavyweight Richard Branson of
I plan to monitor this industry closely and collect additional anecdotes that illustrate
trends. I hope to see continued expansion, especially in employment. I tell colleagues
to think positive thoughts.
Mike Nemeth, project manager of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization,
spent 24 years working as a newspaperman editing and reporting from Alaska to
California. The SJVCEO is a nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life through
increased use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO is based in Fresno, Calif.
and works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to
demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the
eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley. For more information, go