The Clean Energy Choice—To Lead or Lag


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the United States last year, and 10 other G20 members devoted a greater percentage of GDP to clean energy than the United States in 2009.

Nearly every one of the New England clean energy executives who traveled to Washington shared stories about the difficulty of financing and growing their companies here compared to other parts of the world. Asia, Europe, and even parts of the Middle East offer clean energy companies the opportunity to build their factories and projects faster, at lower cost and with longer-term customer contracts. These executives want to build their companies in the U.S. to serve global markets, but the cost of capital, readiness of markets and the availability of research funding and skilled workforce will ultimately determine how much of their growth will benefit the region.

So where does that leave us? On the verge. Decisions made during the next several years will determine where investments will be made, and these investments will have impact over several decades on a region’s economy and job market.

The creation and growth of clean energy companies in New England can deliver triple bottom-line results, including:

1. New companies and jobs based on next-generation technologies and services.

2. Displacement of imported oil with domestically produced clean energy, reducing our negative trade imbalance, and recycling those expenditures into our regional economy.

3. Mitigation of climate change impacts, improving quality of life for our children and grandchildren.

If we are to realize a clean energy future, we must change the trajectory of public and private sector investments soon or we will find advanced clean energy technologies reaching economies of scale in other parts of the world. We will replace our dependence on imported oil with a dependence on imported wind turbines and solar panels. We will miss out on regional economic growth and jobs.

Changing the trajectory requires the President and U.S. Senate to show leadership and come together on comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

Early-mover advantages are passing us by. New England and U.S. innovation can lead this critically valuable sector, but immediate passage of comprehensive climate and energy legislation is imperative. A price on carbon and a cap on greenhouse gas emissions will unleash a torrent of private sector investment and the resources for federal funding for clean energy R&D and deployment that will impact the scale of this sector for generations.

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Peter Rothstein is President of the New England Clean Energy Council. Follow @

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4 responses to “The Clean Energy Choice—To Lead or Lag”

  1. I am all for clean energy, until it compromises our view shed or makes a new addition to view pollution. I am talking about transmission lines and substations/collector sites. Broadwater County Montana, utility proposed MSTI project, hundreds of miles of 500kV transmission lines, a substation/collector site (50+ acres) with collector lines connecting. Wind farms across Montana with those collector lines leading to proposed collector site. Hundreds of miles of lines terracing across the “new Electric Sky State”. The substation/collector site will have no EIS, no public input, our legislators did this to us by gutting our Montana Codes Annotated. We will have no recourse, especially in such a small community with little financial resources. Our little group has started a concerned citizens group and a website “”. There is little more we can do, but, write letters and hope for help from folks we do not know.

    Thank you for this opportunity to voice some opinion.

  2. Ken Smith says:

    Boston-based green blog Build Baby Build, dedicated to promoting a nation of energy locavores through local renewable energy development to donate 50% of merchandise profits to New Orleans Charity. Please visit for details.

  3. Ray DeMeo says:


    A meaningful post.
    It is disheartening to see the announcement this week that Senator Lindsey Graham will now reverse on his support for the energy bill. On Your closing point about private sector investment is well made. Without legislation that can give a greater measure of market stability, private sector insecurity around making investments in cleantech will remain.