California Proves Cleantech Is Good Business
By Bill Roth
California is now the sixth largest economy in the world. It’s economy is twice the size of Texas. The state’s 3+% annual economic growth rate exceeds all other states and most countries.
This scale of California’s economic success has been achieved while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36%. California has installed over 3,000 MWs of solar. This is more than any other state. The state’s 4,000+ clean technology patents and clean technology investment also leads all other states.
California’s success is slamming the door on the Industrial Age link between economic growth and fossil fuel consumption. California is pioneering the carbon free economy.
Clean tech creates local job growth
The best kept secret in America is that clean tech is a mega job creator. America has approximately 563,000 electric utility work associates. California alone has created over 500,000 “advanced energy” jobs. Nationally there are over 800,000 people employed in energy efficiency.
Clean tech not only accounts for a large number of jobs. Importantly, it creates local jobs. These are jobs that every state and city can have. They are also steady jobs. Real estate and fossil fuel bubbles come and go. Reducing costs and emissions is a mega trend that is gaining strength during the 21st century. It is creating a path to sustained job growth that international trade deal cannot erode.
Dealing with your state’s fossil fuel and job creation future
What most people do not know is that California is either the 3rd or 4th largest oil producing state in the United States. California could have chosen to remain linked to its fossil fuel riches. The state, after much contentious debate, chose a clean tech economic development path. Today the state is again facing a contentious debate as it grapples with the unpopular need to tax fossil fuels to reflect their pollution impacts on people and the planet. This is pitting Big Oil and utilities against the visionaries that have delivered California’s current stellar economic results. The battle will be over whether consumers/voters will accept a higher price for gasoline to accelerate the transition to electric and hybrid vehicles.
Similar questions rages at various degrees of intensity across all our states. Fossil fuels have been the lynchpin of Industrial Age economic growth. But we are now in the 21st Century with cleaner technologies that create more jobs and increased economic growth. The tension between these mega shifts are palpable. It is as real as a coal miner or rough neck losing a job and a solar or smart building contractor creating jobs. It is as real as a utility defending its monopoly revenues against a growing tide of competing solar, battery and IoT technologies that offer lower electric bills and emissions. How a state reconciles itself between the Industrial Age and the 21st Century will determine its economic future, home values and potentially your career.
Delinking your company’s fossil fuel consumption and profit success
The emerging carbon free economy is a huge issue for individual businesses. It is driven by these three mega trends:
- Millennials. This generation believes climate change is real and manmade. Many still love their full size pick up trucks. But the social and wealth leaders in this demographic group are pursuing alternative lifestyles and technologies that pollute less and do more. This is hugely important to every business because millennials are now the largest employed demographic group and next year they are projected to have the highest earned buying power. What every business must recognize is that they decide on who to work for and what to buy based on a company’s commitment to values including protecting people and the environment.
- Externality costs and risks. The size of externality damage created from fossil fuel consumption cannot be ignored. These externality costs are a risk to every business. A storm, made more intense by climate change, that damages business property and impairs commerce is just as real cost a cost as price escalation from a vendor. Fossil fuel linked externality costs are rising. If California is a trend setting state then it is not a question of if, but a question of when, your state government must take actions to enable mass adoption of clean/smart technologies.
- Renewable energy and smart technologies increase profits. Technologies like solar and autonomous LED lighting systems are dramatically reducing electric bills. Plus they offer decades of protection against utility price increases. Companies from Apple to Walmart are investing massively in clean tech where state utility regulations allows. These investments are generating 20-50% annual returns. Clean tech increases profits!
The business organization challenge is to move clean tech from a facility manager level issue up to the C-suite. Clean tech now links to the strategic issues of building brand equity with the millennial generation, risk management and capital allocation optimization. It is a CEO issue that requires their engagement with political leadership in setting public policy that enables competitive advantage in the 21st century.
Bill Roth, Founder of Earth 2017
This is the first of a series of articles I will be posting with Caelus. These articles will focus on how businesses and communities are achieving triple bottom line success.
I founded Earth 2017 to capture case studies and video interviews on how business and community leaders are achieving sustainable results. The Earth 2017 website, and the YouTube channel Earth 2017 TV, are free resource that hosts hundreds of business case studies and video interviews.