Clean tech now a staple of California’s economy, study finds

OAKLAND
March 19, 2013 8:46am
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•  Sector is diversifying, advancing

•  “California’s clean economy businesses are resilient”


Don’t describe California’s clean energy sector as “emerging” – because not only has it “emerged,” it’s now diversifying and advancing, according to a new study.

An annual report from the nonpartisan organization Next 10 – the California Green Innovation Index -- says clean technology patent registrations and energy productivity are growing, clean economy jobs continue their post-recession recovery, and the state’s carbon intensity -- the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to produce each dollar of goods -- continues to drop.

At the same time, the new research shows that while overall investments in clean companies have fallen, financing models are changing with the rise of strategic corporate investors, and investments in some sectors continue to grow.

“California has shown it can reduce emissions while innovating and expanding its economy,” says Noel Perry, businessman and founder of Next 10. “Emissions per capita in California continued their downward trend in 2010, and at the same time the state saw a rise in per capita GDP.”

The 2013 California Green Innovation Index (greeninnovationindex.org), released today by the nonpartisan nonprofit group Next 10 and compiled by Collaborative Economics, is the fifth edition of the report. It tracks economic indicators as the state implements and adopts policies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. Included in the Index is a policy timeline tracking California’s history of innovative policymaking back to 1947.

Details of the study include:

• Per capita emissions continued to fall in 2010, tracking a 17 percent drop since 1990 and a two percent decline from 2009 to 2010.

• Between 2010 and 2011, clean technology patent registrations in California increased by 26 percent, outpacing the growth rate of clean patents throughout the United States (10 percent) and in the rest of the world (5 percent).

• Between the two-year periods of 2008-2009 and 2010-2011, California’s solar patents more than tripled, securing the state’s position as the undisputed leader in solar patents in the U.S. In the most recent 2010-2011 period, the next eight highest states’ solar patents combined add up to the level of California’s photovoltaic patents alone.

• California is also the top state for patent registrations in the water, batteries, and energy infrastructure sectors.

• Renewable electricity generation grew 28 percent between 2007 and 2011, surpassing 41,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2011. The majority of this overall jump can be attributed to the wind generation, which doubled over the same time period.

• Overall public and private investment in clean technology dropped 42 percent to $3.75 billion in 2012, returning to 2008 levels, due to factors including market uncertainty, changes in national policy, and the maturation and consolidation of companies in the sector. At the same time, some sectors, including clean transportation, received large increases in funding. Investment in that segment grew 44 percent from 2011 to 2012, reaching nearly $1 billion.

“Market uncertainty and low natural gas prices caused some skittishness with investors last year,” says Dan Adler, advisor to Next 10, and president of CalCEF Ventures, a venture capital fund created to accelerate investment in California’s clean energy economy. “Despite one tough year, California’s clean economy businesses are resilient. They are tapping new financing sources and will continue to be top national and international draws for investment.”

“Patent registration data is an early indication of the direction markets are heading,” says Doug Henton, chairman and chief executive officer of Collaborative Economics, which authored the report. “Hybrid systems, fuel cells, wind energy and solar energy patent registrations each more than doubled over the examined time period. This data signals a strong potential for healthy economic activity in these sectors in California in the years to come.”

Top clean economy jobs findings include:

• Through January 2011, jobs in what’s termed the “core clean economy” expanded nearly three percent from pre-recession (January 2008) levels, whereas overall economy jobs were still down about two percent compared to pre-recession levels.

• More recently, jobs in the core clean economy increased at a rate of 1.2 percent while total statewide employment expanded by 2.2 percent between January 2010 and January 2011 (the most recent observable period).

• Over ten years, from January 2001 to January 2011, jobs in the core clean economy grew four times faster than the total state economy.

• The Bay Area, including Silicon Valley, boasts the highest share of California clean economy jobs as of January 2011, with 30 percent (52,555) of the state’s total (176,000), along with the highest concentration of jobs in the energy generation, energy infrastructure, green building and advanced materials segments.

•Core clean economy jobs in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley regions grew fastest when compared to other regions between January 2001 and January 2011 (59 percent and 57 percent respectively).

• Jobs in the Sacramento core clean economy grew the fastest overall more recently (January 2010 to January 2011). Jobs rose ten percent, with jumps in advanced materials and air & environment segments.

“California is working on parallel tracks that are bringing significant short and long term economic and environmental benefits. We are producing more while using less energy and also inventing, developing and deploying innovative clean technologies,” says Mr. Perry. “These activities stimulate our economy by driving innovation, encouraging investment and supporting jobs.”


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