Clean Energy: A Key Ingredient in the Recipe for a Thriving New England Economy

Seth Kaplan

Courtesy ReillyButler @ flickr. Creative Commons

An incisive and clear essay by Peter Rothstein, President of the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC), published on the Commonwealth Magazine website makes powerful and accurate points about the benefits of clean energy to the regional economy.  His analysis and arguments are deeply consistent with the points that CLF’s Jonathan Peress made in a recent entry on this blog outlining the benefits of the investments generated by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) documented in a study by the Analysis Group.

Unlike the attacks on the clean energy programs that he is responding to, Rothstein backs his assertions up with facts and figures. Here is a long quotation from his essay:

Clean energy investments have many positive benefits, making our energy infrastructure more efficient and sustainable and while growing the regional economy. Though you might not know it from the headlines, the clean energy sector is one of the few bright spots in the economy, growing steadily throughout the recession – 6.7 percent from July 2010 to July 2011 alone. Massachusetts is now home to more than 4,900 clean energy businesses and 64,000 clean energy workers – 1.5 percent of the Commonwealth’s workforce. This job growth is not a transfer of jobs from other industries – it’s a net increase that results from the Massachusetts innovation economy creating new value for national and international markets, not just local.

 Clean energy is starting to grow in much the same way as the IT and biotech sectors, which took decades to become powerhouses of our innovation economy. Massachusetts clean energy companies have brought significant new capital from around the world into Massachusetts, earning the largest per capita concentration of US Department of Energy innovation awards. Massachusetts companies have also brought in the second largest concentration of private venture capital in cleantech, a sector which grew 10-fold over the last decade.

 Consumers, businesses, and the Massachusetts economy all win if we stick with policies that drive clean energy investments. The combination of efficiency and renewables prescribed by the Green Communities Act is a positive force to control costs and make bills more predictable for consumers. While the prices of natural gas and oil are anything but predictable, the impact of investing in renewables is clear and positive as these technologies continue to get cheaper. Solar costs have come down nearly 60 percent since 2008 while wind turbine prices have dropped 18 percent.

It is indeed good news that new technologies not only confront the brutal logic of climate change but also boost our economy by virtue of being sound investments.  At such times as these, we should treasure every bit of good news we find.

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