Local Chambers, Communities Will Drive the Economic Opportunities of Clean Energy in 2017

Governor, Local Chamber CEOs are Positive about Opportunities for Clean Energy Growth in 2017

It all comes down to being competitive, local chamber CEOs from across the nation said in a briefing call last week that featured former Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado.

The economic opportunities of clean energy help communities to be more competitive—by attracting greater investments to their regions, growing jobs, reducing costs, responding to demand, and attracting young talent.

That is why clean energy will continue to be a growing market in 2017—and why many local chambers of commerce will be at the forefront, advancing clean energy as an opportunity that is in the best interest of businesses in their regions.

Mainstream economic issue

“This is a mainstream economic development conversation now, and local chambers are in middle of that conversation because we are trusted conveners on issues that affect communities,” said Doug Luciani, CEO of TraverseConnect in Michigan, which cohosted the call.

“Local leadership and best practices are being set by communities,” he added. “Regions that are going to succeed in attracting the brightest and best are going to be regions that fully embrace these new technologies, doing the right thing for the right reasons.”

“The economic opportunity has to do with job creation in the clean energy world,” said former Gov. Ritter, Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. And there has been tremendous progress at the local and state level over the past three months, he said.

Advances since the election

Clean energy job and investment growth have progressed in a number of states since the election, including:

  • In Illinois, the Governor (R) signed a significant energy bill that will reinvigorate the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, boost solar and wind investments and jobs, and cut energy costs statewide.
  • In Ohio, the Governor (R) vetoed a bill that would have extended a freeze on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, saying allowing it to continue would “undermine the progress” renewable energy companies have made in creating jobs in Ohio and amount to “self-inflicted damage to both our state’s near- and long-term economic competitiveness.”
  • In Michigan, the Governor (R) signed a bill to strengthen the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard—requiring the state to generate 15 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2021.
  • In Maryland, the Legislature passed a Clean Energy Jobs Act to ensure that the state get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2020.
  • In New York, the Governor (D) announced a goal to phase out all coal-fired power plants by 2020.

Utilities, Corporations, and Chambers

“Utilities will also play key role in this clean energy transition,” Ritter said. “They are planning 20, 30, 40 years into the future.”

With a growing number of corporations committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy—from tech giants Google, Facebook, and Apple to GM, Johnson & Johnson, and Nestle—clean energy job and investment growth will clearly go to states that can provide the renewables.

Local chambers can help by convening dialogues about how to meet growing demand and provide market certainty, and then taking their message to state capitols, said Ritter.

“Chambers of commerce have such significant influence inside so many statehouses,” he added; “it would really benefit all to have that conversation.”