Contribution by: Emily Chan, 16′
There has always been controversy within the US over investing in renewable energy sources. For instance, a portion of Obama’s alternative energy investments has ended up declaring bankruptcy. Though only calculated to have a “failure rate of about 8%,” the other companies which did fail, such as Solyndra, created a politically unfavorable climate for future investments into renewable energy sources. The focus for reelection for politicians in the US has shifted attention away from renewable energy sources and has taken us to the point where other countries have surpassed the US (who was previously number 1) in the market for green energy. In recent green market headlines, China has finally reclaimed their spot as number 1 in green energy investments. A Yahoo finance article noted how “Green investments in China in 2012 rose 20% to $65 billion while they fell 37% in the U.S. to just under $36 billion.”
Divergent investment opportunities and specific government policies have caused this significant difference in investment amounts. China has enacted long term goals, which give incentive to investors since China will mostly likely follow through due to their increasing pollution problems. Meanwhile, the US has disjointed policies, without an umbrella federal policy for reducing emissions. Only a select amount of states have issued any explicit goals, leaving investors questioning the future for the US green market. As Phyllis Cuttino, director of the clean energy program at Pew explains: “When a country has a strong target and a consistent policy, investors will go invest.”
Perhaps what the US needs is a bipartisan renewable energy investment plan, one that puts the responsibility on not only the federal government but also state governments to invest in renewable energy. That way, each state can find the energy system most effective for their location. Google has an interesting method that puts the power of investment into a level even more localized than state governments- the consumer’s hands. Martin LeMonica in the MIT Technology Review explains how Google has planned for “utilities own renewable energy projects and customers have the option to purchase a portion of their energy production.” In that sense, the increased cost of the new type of energy production is placed directly on the buyer, and this increases the individual’s responsibilities in terms of responsible energy production.
We can try a top down or bottom up approach, both are not mutually exclusive. Yet, to enact these policies takes the right timing and funding. For now, now that the election season is over, we can finally focus on how we can invest for the future.