Catalyzing the Clean-energy Economy
A key issue facing the nation, and one that must be addressed by Steven Chu, President-elect Obamas pick for secretary of Energy, is how best to transform the nations energy infrastructure, catalyze the clean-energy economy, and reach Obamas goal of creating 2.5 million green jobs.
While there are aspects of energy transformation that demand central involvement by the federal government, the countrys tremendous record of innovation is based on the power of individuals in the private sector to identify problems, envision solutions, and pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs often starting in their garages. This is precisely what fueled the explosion of computers and information technology, and it can drive the development of a new generation of clean-energy technology as well.
In order to make this happen, Chu should direct a far greater percentage of the departments budget and resources outward sparking more clean-energy research in our universities and research centers, accelerating new venture creation, and helping to scale proven technologies.
A powerful template for action can be found in New Englands recent surge as a clean-energy cluster. Massachusetts and the region have seen the number of clean-energy companies grow exponentially since 2006; this can and should be repeated elsewhere. Here are a small number of programs that could help create powerful clean-energy clusters around the country:
Chu will be busy. There is a dizzying array of decisions to be made with regard to energy efficiency, renewables, and helping Congress formulate the market signals required to more quickly steer our society away from traditional, fossil-based energy.
But most important, the new secretary must drive the department at the speed of business, utilizing public/private partnerships to catalyze private-sector action, if we are to achieve energy independence and a thriving clean-energy economy.-
Nick dArbeloff is executive director of the New England Clean Energy Council. Hemant Taneja is a managing director at General Catalyst Partners, and the councils co-chairman.