The Clean Energy Choice—To Lead or Lag

Opinion

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the United States last year, and 10 other G20 members devoted a greater percentage of GDP to clean energy than the United States in 2009.

Nearly every one of the New England clean energy executives who traveled to Washington shared stories about the difficulty of financing and growing their companies here compared to other parts of the world. Asia, Europe, and even parts of the Middle East offer clean energy companies the opportunity to build their factories and projects faster, at lower cost and with longer-term customer contracts. These executives want to build their companies in the U.S. to serve global markets, but the cost of capital, readiness of markets and the availability of research funding and skilled workforce will ultimately determine how much of their growth will benefit the region.

So where does that leave us? On the verge. Decisions made during the next several years will determine where investments will be made, and these investments will have impact over several decades on a region’s economy and job market.

The creation and growth of clean energy companies in New England can deliver triple bottom-line results, including:

1. New companies and jobs based on next-generation technologies and services.

2. Displacement of imported oil with domestically produced clean energy, reducing our negative trade imbalance, and recycling those expenditures into our regional economy.

3. Mitigation of climate change impacts, improving quality of life for our children and grandchildren.

If we are to realize a clean energy future, we must change the trajectory of public and private sector investments soon or we will find advanced clean energy technologies reaching economies of scale in other parts of the world. We will replace our dependence on imported oil with a dependence on imported wind turbines and solar panels. We will miss out on regional economic growth and jobs.

Changing the trajectory requires the President and U.S. Senate to show leadership and come together on comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

Early-mover advantages are passing us by. New England and U.S. innovation can lead this critically valuable sector, but immediate passage of comprehensive climate and energy legislation is imperative. A price on carbon and a cap on greenhouse gas emissions will unleash a torrent of private sector investment and the resources for federal funding for clean energy R&D and deployment that will impact the scale of this sector for generations.

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Peter Rothstein is President of the New England Clean Energy Council. Follow @

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