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Monday, September 14, 2009

Clean Energy Centers Growing Worldwide, Not in U.S.

Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute

Clean energy technology hubs are rapidly developing all over the world, except in the United States. Business leaders who met at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit acknowledged that massive government investment has created vibrant clean energy markets in countries around the world, but unfortunately the U.S. has not taken part in this trend. As The Business Insider reports, Google Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl noted:

"Other countries, China being one of the major examples, are investing very heavily in this space across the whole innovation pipeline...from shower to power, from the idea in the shower to generating the power (in a) commercial scale enterprise."

Just yesterday, the China Greentech Initiative released a report describing how large-scale government investment is driving a clean energy market that could be worth upwards of US$1 trillion annually.

While China is home to some of the fastest growing clean energy centers, particular in the solar industry, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, India, North Africa, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi are all directly investing in creating domestic clean energy hubs.

Executives in Silicon Valley, who have become accustomed to leadership in key technology industries like IT and semiconductors are starting to sense the shift in power.

According to Reuter's, Weihl is calling for up to $30 billion in public funding annually for RD&D if the U.S. intends to remain a serious competitor in the clean energy race. Weihl also asserted that there is a "real danger" that the U.S., not to mention Silicon Valley, will not be a clean energy leader without this type of government commitment.

Weihl's comments echo the Breakthrough Institute's call for massive public funding for clean energy RD&D in order to drive private financing and make clean energy cheap. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), currently awaiting congressional approval, however, would only invest $10-12 billion per year in clean energy, broadly defined.

This investment does not stack up against long-term sustained government investment plans, like China's pledge to inject $440-660 billion over ten years into clean energy. Instead of incentivizing U.S. companies and venture capitalists to invest in the U.S. clean energy markets, the lack of cohesive U.S. government action on clean energy RD&D is already motivating private investors to center their interest, and money, in Asia.

Currently, U.S. investment plans commit far less than the $30-50 billion that Breakthrough and business leaders, like Weihl, believe is necessary to drive the transition to a clean energy economy and make the U.S. viable in the increasingly competitive clean energy race.

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