Report

Innovate, Manufacture, Compete: A Clean Energy Action Plan

Introduction

The clean energy industry is gathering momentum around the world. Innovation and investment are helping to reduce the cost of solar, wind, and other emerging technologies. Countries and companies are working to harness the economic opportunity associated with these new products, and deployment of clean energy technologies is accelerating globally.

In the United States, however, the outlook is less positive. Although the global future of clean energy is bright, the U.S. position in this emerging sector is beset by uncertainty. America is no longer the clean energy superpower, and its position in innovation, manufacturing, and deployment is challenged as never before. Clean energy initiatives supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have expired, and other policies require urgent attention.

The Pew Charitable Trusts believes that advanced clean energy technologies can strengthen America's economic and environmental future as well as its security. Pew's research in recent years indicates that clean energy helps create employment, manufacturing, and export opportunities while reducing the pollution and risks associated with current energy patterns and technologies. To reclaim a leadership position in the worldwide competition, the public and private sectors in the United States must work together to strengthen the clean energy industry.

In order to enhance public understanding of opportunities and U.S. competitiveness in the sector, the Pew Clean Energy Program has worked throughout 2012 to compile projections of future energy investment patterns as well as expert perspectives on the current status and future prospects of the industry. In both of these fact-finding endeavors, our focus is on clean energy generating capacity, including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and marine power. This project has not explored data or viewpoints on energy efficiency, energy storage, transmission, transportation, or "smart-grid" technologies.

To get a picture of current and future market trends in the United States and around the world, Pike Research, a part of Navigant Consulting, was commissioned to develop projections of how much clean generating capacity has been deployed in the United States and globally over two time periods: retrospectively from 2009 to 2011, and prospectively from 2012 to 2018. We also developed data on the revenue associated with deployments in each of these periods. The results are presented in Chapters 1 and 2 of this report.

The empirical data on current and future trends were complemented by a series of off-the-record roundtable discussions with industry and other experts on the current status, challenges, and opportunities associated with America's clean energy interests. Talks were organized around a range of topics and in various regions of the country to gather expert opinions on the condition of the U.S. clean energy industry and ideas for strengthening it. Roundtables were convened with esteemed local institutions that work with industry and other experts in communities. Each roundtable took place over half a day, with 10 to 20 expert participants. Discussions were held as follows:

  • NEW YORK, NY—Finance roundtable convened in conjunction with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
  • COLUMBUS, OH—Manufacturing roundtable convened in conjunction with the Central Ohio Hub for Advanced Energy Manufacturing, EWI, and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association.
  • GOLDEN, CO—Innovation roundtable convened in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
  • ATLANTA, GA—Deployment roundtable convened in conjunction with the Georgia Solar Energy Association.
  • JACKSON, MS—Deployment roundtable convened in conjunction with the Mississippi Technology Alliance.

Finally, we convened a conference in Washington, DC featuring panels of experts and more than 100 members of Pew's Clean Energy Business Network.

Results of our empirical analyses and roundtable discussions are presented in this report, followed by policy conclusions Pew derived from its research.

Press Release: Pew Delivers Clean Energy Recommendations to Administration and Congress

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