Last week, President Obama promised new tax incentives and government investment in energy efficiency. This is important news. America is in dire need to secure its power independence. Our national electrical grid is in serious need of attention. This US electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission line. Aging infrastructure, combined with the rise of domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation’s electrical systems. Our electrical grid has hit the ceiling. In many locations, during peak demand, our power generation is not sufficient to produce enough electricity. What is the answer? A combination of new power generation, along with efficiency measures to reduce our power consumption. Some call this combination, green energy or new energy
I am involved in a business with a few partners and business colleagues in a new energy company. We represent the full gamut of the political spectrum, with a few Blue and a few Red. We are entrepreneurs that come from various backgrounds (telecom, construction and logistics), yet we seem to have all been bit by the same “new energy bug”. Some talk about regional and state economic growth, while others see this as a national imperative. Grow our economy with clean technology that will keep jobs in North America. I agree with local and national campaigns, as a means to diversify our energy policy, become more efficient, and grow jobs in a new sector. However, I think this is more than regional or national; this is international. As a global economy, we continue to challenge ourselves in the race for market share in new growth sectors.
A few years ago, China entered the green energy market, and quickly began to dominate from the manufacturing side of the business. China is now the world leader in solar panel production. Pricing for solar panels has been driven down to less than half the cost of only a few years ago. Companies like Suntech Power Holdings, led by Shi Zhengrong, the chief executive and founder, have forced the rest of the industry to become more competitive. Backed by support from the Chinese government, Suntech originally began to offer solar panels for pricing below production cost, in order to build market share. In 2009, China spent $34.6 Billion in clean energy spending, including massive credits and subsidies to new cleantech companies. They are not the only country that has backed its national entrepreneurs to help build a stronger national economy. Britain spent $11.2 Billion, and came in third for 2009 green energy investment. The US came in second, with $18.6 Billion. Not bad, but still not enough. Spain, Brazil and South Korea claimed 4th,5th and 6th slots respectively with 250 percent growth of installed capacity. The total investment all over the world has nearly doubled since 2005. It is estimated to reach the $200 Billion mark in 2010.
Building new power plants in America is becoming tougher. Since 2007, there has been a halting of new coal fired plants across the US. Since 2000, a tally has been kept by the Sierra Club on proposed coal fired plants in America. So far 123 plant have been defeated, with another 51 facing opposition in courts. Of the 231 proposed plants being tracked, only 25 currently have a chance at gaining permits necessary for construction. While this sounds great from an environmental perspective, it only exacerbates the growing need for more electricity throughout North America. Although I am not going to shed a tear on the demise of “traditional coal”, I do worry about what is going to replace it. America needs access to more electricity, as our nation grows and expands.
The time is now that we come together as a nation (not blue vs red), and decide that we want to invest in new energy as a means to ensure power independence, new sectors of financial growth, and the bragging rights to be the world leader in tomorrow’s source of power.