February 1st, 2011

Show Me the Market


Lots of the response to the energy-related portion of the president’s State of the Union address has understandably focused on a few specific goals: 80% of electricity from “clean” sources by 2035; end subsidies to oil companies; 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

But I’d argue the most important line of the speech was not the mention of any of these specific goals.  It was this:

Clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling.

Commit that one to memory.

Energy innovation is a critical component of a national energy strategy.  On that much we all agree.  But as I’ve written before, innovation hinges on more than increased R&D.  The point of that post was this:

Ours is both a technological challenge and a deployment  challenge.

Creating demand for clean energy – whether through a price on carbon, a clean electricity standard, or some other mechanism – is critical not just for today’s emissions reductions, but for tomorrow’s.

As the IPCC puts it:

The set of available technology defines what might be deployed, and the use of technology affords learning that can guide R&D programmes or directly improve technology through learning-by-doing.

Deployment speeds innovation. Any serious clean energy strategy needs to take that basic fact into account.  Obama made clear that he understands that, but it bears repeating.  We have the innovation resources to excel in clean energy.  Now we need to build a market.

Photo Courtesy: knittymarie

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Walter Frick

About Walter Frick

Walter Frick works for the New England Clean Energy Council, managing the Council’s communications, web presence, and student outreach. Prior to joining the Council, Walter worked for the U.S. Green Building Council, creator of the LEED rating system, in D.C., where he focused on membership recruitment. Before that he worked in Richmond for the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. In addition to clean energy, Walter is interested in public policy, information and media, and how the web is changing our relationships with each. He is a graduate of Colgate University. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wfrick