Our Turn: Let’s encourage clean-tech business growth
Over the past few years, we in New Hampshire have tried various small-scale attempts at spurring increased use of renewable energy generation. At the same time, many other states – including our neighbors – have taken significant steps to attract large-scale investment in the clean technologies sector. As a result, we have fallen a few steps behind in attracting this established and mainstream business sector to our state. Without immediate and bold action, we run the risk of missing out on an opportunity to bring new investment and new jobs to New Hampshire.
The clean-tech sector is more than solar panels and wind turbines. It is an industry leading the way toward a new innovation economy across the nation. Clean-tech employs millions of people, including engineers, architects, efficiency retro-fitters, real estate developers, general contractors, software developers, lawyers, loan officers and product manufacturing workers. And that includes the well-established multi-billion-dollar renewable energy industry through developers, manufacturers, and operators in innumerable iterations of solar, wind, biomass, hydro, biofuel and geothermal systems.
Just to our south in Massachusetts, the clean-tech sector experienced a 11.8 percent employment growth rate from 2012 to 2013 and employed 79,994 workers.
Spurring investment in clean-tech does more than create new businesses and the jobs that come with them. It leads to expanded solutions for local energy solutions. It provides truly diverse, native sources of energy. It improves the air, water and soil. And it reduces our dependency on fuel and power imports from Canada, South America and the Middle East.
How does New Hampshire take advantage of all this? We must work together to establish a commitment that creates a business and investment- friendly environment for this industry in our state.
One way to do that is to coordinate the New Hampshire clean-tech industry’s voice to educate, stimulate and expand connections that set the tone and provide a voice to advocate for these changes. We need to offer a clear vision, set foundational policies that minimize investor risk and provide the leadership to get there.
To that end, we have laid the framework for the New Hampshire CleanTech Council which will bring together leaders in New Hampshire’s clean-tech innovation economy to start moving solutions to the real issues across the sector’s entire value chain.
Our goal is to expand the opportunities for both new startups and established companies to participate in the innovation economy and create the jobs and investment that so many other states are already seeing restart their economies. As our economy struggles to emerge from recession, now is the time for state leaders to assert a bold vision that will establish New Hampshire as a national leader – not a passive follower of other states – who sees jobs, opportunity and economic vitality in clean tech. Let’s take the lead and get our economy moving again.
(Kate Epsen is executive director of the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association in Concord. Taylor Caswell is a clean energy developer and policy consultant in Hollis. Charlie Niebling is a consultant with Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC.)