Cities as Test Beds for What’s Next in Clean Tech

Jessyca SheehanJessyca Sheehan, associate director, is a member of APCO’s global energy and clean tech practice

As a follow-up to the release of its U.S. Metro Clean Tech Index, clean tech market research and advisory firm Clean Edge* held a webinar this week to discuss what state and national policymakers can learn from their counterparts at the local level when it comes to the future of clean tech.

The panelists – which included former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels, City of San Diego Clean Tech Manager Jacques Chirazi, and C40 Director of City Programs Johanna Partin – shared their views on the best examples of local clean tech innovation that is reducing energy use and emissions, increasing community reliance on clean energy and creating new jobs.

Three major clean tech drivers emerged during the course of the conversation:

1. Public-private partnerships. Government, business, academia and NGOs are pooling resources and know-how to attract and advance new clean tech projects in their local regions. Shining stars include Smart City San Diego, which just unveiled its innovative Solar-to-EV project that uses a solar PV canopy to charge electric vehicles in the San Diego Zoo parking lot; New York’s Energy Efficiency Market Acceleration Program, which funds energy efficiency test projects at city-owned buildings to help accelerate market deployment; and Portland’s We Build Green Cities, which connects local green innovators to opportunities in other regions.

2. Local incentives and mandates. Using a carrot (or a stick) to incentivize clean tech investment is working for such cities as San Francisco, whose Go Solar SF program provides rebates to customers who hire SF Solar to install residential solar, helping create new local jobs in the process. And in Washington D.C. and New York City, stringent green building standards for commercial buildings are spurring private investment in energy-reducing technologies.

3. Innovative financing schemes. Reducing the upfront installation cost is key to growing the clean tech industry. Commercial Property Assessment Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which have spread from San Francisco to Miami, finance clean energy installations through a property tax assessment which passes to the new owner if the building is sold. Another example is energy performance contracting, which guarantees energy savings will cover all project costs and was used successfully for the Empire State Building’s multi-million dollar energy efficiency retrofit.

Ms. Partin perhaps put it best when she said the greatest contribution cities can make to the growth of clean tech is to prove that it can be done. As living laboratories testing new technologies, local projects can provide the assurance state and federal policymakers need to invest in a clean tech future.

Tell us what you think. What type of clean tech innovation are you seeing in your city? What programs or policies do you think have the greatest potential to spread to the state or national level and have a major impact on the growth of clean tech?

*Clean Edge is an APCO client.

Posted on November 29, 2012 By Jessyca Sheehan
Categories  Energy & Clean Tech and tagged , , , , ,
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