Bill Clinton's getting downright green.
And he's not the only one. A whole slew of corporate magnates, political leaders and members of the establishment are buying into the economic benefits of energy savings and renewables.
In an interview in which Clinton discussed clean energy, jobs and how the two could resurrect the stagnant economy, he suggests increasing energy efficiency retrofits of government buildings and universities and decentralize energy generation by adding renewable sources.
"Big centralized power stations would be used for things like manufacturing," he says.
Making it work
Clinton advises approaching clean energy from a capitalist perspective with the questions: "How can we make a dollar out of this?" and "How can we put people to work?" He spoke with Aaron Task on Yahoo's Daily Ticker.
But the former president appears to be pointing out the obvious. The green clean energy movement looks as if it will rocket ahead without any assistance from the White House or Congress. Not that a nod from a jobs package would hurt.
In an interview with Smart Grid News that appeared on cleantechies.com, economists Ahmad Faruqui and Doug Mitarotonda of The Brattle Group predict U.S. electricity demand will decline between 5 percent and 15 percent over the next decade. This despite an increase in personal electronics use. The two economists cite a "new wave of energy efficiency" where building managers and electricity consumers monitor energy use and adjust accordingly via new technology.
Solar bounds past setbacks
And despite the setback of Solyndra's bankruptcy and federal investigation, solar doesn't look to be slowing down. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association's latest quarterly U.S. Solar Market Insight report, the domestic photovoltaics market grew 69 percent in second quarter 2011 from the same period a year earlier.
"The U.S. remains poised to install 1,750 megawatts of PV in 2011, double last year's total and enough to power 350,000 homes," writes solarpowerenergies.com.
In a followup story, Ricnorcreative.com's Eric Wesoff reports that the United States has surpassed the 1 gigawatt, or 1 billion watt, mark for installed solar and looks to pass the 2 gigawatt threshold next year.
Industry posts growth
Not too shabby. And prospects look good for that trend to continue. The Solar Foundation's latest study finds 100,237 jobs in the industry as of August 2011 and growth of 6.8 percent in August 2011 from the same period a year earlier.
Brian Keane, president of nonprofit SmartPower, says policymakers would be wise to study those numbers carefully. He says Solyndra's demise is outweighed by "countless industry success stories" and cites SolarCity's contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to install 160,000 rooftop solar installations on military housing complexes at 124 military bases across 34 states.
"The company hopes to fill many of those jobs with veterans and military family members," Keane says in a piece on Huffington Post.
The corporate end is also making renewable waves. Behemoth Walmart, the No. 1 U.S. employer, has announced a plan to install solar panels on about 60 more stores in California, which means more than three quarters of its outlets in the state will be so equipped.
Kim Saylors-Laster, Walmart vice president of energy, says in a statement: "California presents a great opportunity for Walmart to make significant progress toward our sustainability goals."
Just can't beat that.
The Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Corps, a crew of 96 graduate students, worked this year with 78 companies, cities and universities to find energy efficiency measures. The corps found installed savings of 600 million kilowatt hours annually and total lifetime energy savings of $650 million.
Green crossing party lines
And on the political spectrum, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is shooting to the head of the green column with his policies and practices as he works to make one of the nation's most important cities relevant in an age of climate unrest. Shawn Lesser of the International Business Times says Bloomberg "has been instrumental in motivating a number of other large cities to make changes."
The New York mayor's top 10 list of clean energy initiatives has received a lot of press and likely will be scrutinized by other cities across the globe. Bloomberg severed his ties with the GOP in 2007 to become an independent.
And I'm not sure on this account, but I believe the wise investment in energy efficiency and energy management in buildings and manufacturing will attract other high-ranking members of the Republican Party into the ranks of green believers. And as solar and wind energy costs continue to fall, more likely will adopt a friendlier public posture to renewables.
Sean Patrick Hazlett of slogreenbusiness.com says other clean energy friendly folks in the GOP include presidential candidates Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and George Schultz at the Hoover Institution.
Lighting up the grid
Expect dramatic change in how electricity is produced, marketed and used in the next decade. a Boulder, Colo.-based research group says in a recent report that "the past decade has seen tremendous growth in competitive electricity procurement by commercial, industrial and institutional purchasers." It also lists electricity as a $360 billion per year market in this country.
Everybody's looking for the best deal. Combine that with mandates like California's Global Warming Solutions Act, which calls for a third of energy generation to come renewable sources by 2020, and opportunities for purveyors of green energy will benefit. Investments made now could pay off in spades down the road.
They could tank too. Everything depends on the art of the deal, and that's why the entry of shrewd business people is a good thing for clean energy.
Clean energy worth billions
The evidence, however, mounts that this clean energy stuff may be worthwhile. Justin Gillis of the New York Times reports that a business consortium that includes Lockheed Martin and Barclays bank plans to invest about $650 million to install energy efficiency retrofits to buildings in Sacramento and Miami.
Gillis writes that many people believe the program could be worth billions. He says the consortium was formed by the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit environmental group set up by British corporate heavyweight Richard Branson of The Virgin Group "to tackle the world's climate and energy problems in cost-saving ways."
I plan to monitor this industry closely and collect additional anecdotes that illustrate trends. I hope to see continued expansion, especially in employment. I tell colleagues to think positive thoughts.
Mike Nemeth, project manager of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, spent 24 years working as a newspaperman editing and reporting from Alaska to California. The SJVCEO is a nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life through increased use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO is based in Fresno, Calif. and works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley. For more information, go to http://www.cleanenergymiami.com.