According to the Boston Globe (7/13/11), “Greater Boston ranks in the top 10 among the nation’s largest metropolitan areas for employment in the alternative energy industry, boosted by state policies that require utilities to purchase electricity generated by solar, wind and other nonpolluting power sources, according to a new study.” Is this employment picture sustainable without state support?
In the July 7th issue of Forbes, The Coming Clean Tech Crash, Devon Swezey writes, “The global clean energy industry is set for a major crash. The reason is simple. Clean energy is still much more expensive and less reliable than coal or gas, and in an era of heightened budget austerity the subsidies required to make clean energy artificially cheaper are becoming unsustainable.”
The subject of wind energy, both on/off shore in Massachusetts, is treated in my blog posts of April 5, 7, 12, 14, 18, 20, 26, and 28. Capital equipment costs, development time, state subsidies and insufficient wind are issues that make wind energy far less competitive with respect to fossil fuel, electric generation sources.
“Clean tech crashes are nothing new. The U.S. wind energy industry has collapsed three times before, first in the mid 1990s and most recently in 2002 and 2004 when Congress failed to extend the tax credit that made it profitable. But the impact and magnitude of the coming clean tech crash will far outstrip those of past years.”
Cuts in clean energy are already underway in Europe with budget reductions in Germany, France, Spain, the Czech Republic and Italy. China, however, is expanding its clean energy support based on a ten year program and $760B. There is a reasonable chance that the clean tech industry will migrate to “only game in town,” namely China.
Path Forward- Back to Good News
The United States should support adequately budgeted, clean tech programs that consistently feature innovation (i.e., riskier projects) to develop energy generation technologies that are less costly than their fossil fuel counterparts. In this manner, government subsidies can be removed permanently, along with the creation of a competitive industry and many jobs. China does not have to win the clean tech game if the United States plays its cards well.Tags: Alternative Energy Jobs, Boston, China, Coming Clean Tech Crash, Innovation, Wind Energy