Harnessing the Power of the States
This week, the Brookings Institution released an interesting policy paper that says that states can and should lead the way in building an advanced energy economy in the U.S.
With clean energy funds drying up as the President’s stimulus package nears its end and resistance to clean energy only hardening in Washington, it’s up to states to step up to the plate to create new financing mechanisms and economic development strategies to foster the next generation of technologies and companies.
The paper cites California and Massachusetts, among others, as examples of states that have already developed innovative strategies to do this. In the case of California, the report cites the state’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program as an example of a program that has greatly advanced California’s clean energy research, and in turn, helped build a robust clean energy industry in the state.
Brookings notes that:
“The PIER program has enabled California to leverage its public benefit research to develop some of the most aggressive statewide standards and goals for the adoption of renewables, energy efficiency, and green buildings.”
Our co-founder, Tom Steyer, has also praised the PIER program in recent months, stating that, “…the Public Interest Energy Research Program has been the driving force behind California's blitz to accelerate the generation of clean energy and to continue our ranking as the nation's most energy-efficient state.”
Steyer also noted that:
“Since its inception in 1996, more than $700 million from the program has been directed into energy research, development and demonstration projects in the state. It is widely credited for helping these projects produce tangible ratepayer benefits, cushioning our state from wild swings in the cost of petroleum and natural gas…”
Another interesting tidbit from the Brookings paper makes note of the creative economic development strategies that some states are undertaking to jumpstart clean energy economies in their regions. One of the strategies noted is something that our sister organization, Advanced Energy Economy, is doing: “industry development support through business incubator programs, regional cluster promotion, manufacturing and export promotion, supply chain analysis and enhancement, and workforce training programs.
For a good summary of the Brookings policy paper, check out this piece in The New Republic by one of the paper’s authors, Mark Muro.
In that summary, Muro makes a very good point that this type of decentralized, bottom-up approach will empower states to spur clean energy economic development in their regions, and that that might be the best way to, “…develop the clean energy industries of the future without the partisan rancor and obtuseness that has stymied federal energy policy.”