California is the Runaway Leader in Clean Tech

7002532407_d93bed8f0bWhen it comes to clean tech, California is the clear leader, as the results of the U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index report show. Clean Edge, a research and advisory firm dedicated to the clean-tech sector, recently released the report. Leadership in clean tech at the state and metro levels is linked, the report finds. Half of this year’s top 10 metro areas are in California, the State Index leader for the past four years. “There is a strong correlation between leading states and leading cities,” Clint Wilder, Clean Edge Senior Editor, stated in an interview.

California is the leader in all three technology categories, and earned a top score of 100, well ahead of the number two state, Oregon (78.3). The three categories are clean electricity, clean transportation, and energy intelligence and green building. “This is the fourth straight year that California is number one. California is the runaway leader in technology,” Wilder said.

Although the index is set to level the data so that more populous states do not have an advantage, California, the most populous state, leads anyway. Why is the golden state such a “runaway” leader in clean tech? Wilder cites several reasons. Both the technology center, Silicon Valley, and Sand Hill Road, the “epicenter of venture capital,” as Wilder puts it, are in California. The two together are a “marriage of technology and startup capital.” California also has the top ranked green MBA program at Stanford University.

In addition to having Silicon Valley and lots of venture capital, part of the reason why California leads is because it has the right policies in place. This includes a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 33 percent by 2020. An RPS is the “most important policy to have or not have,” according to Wilder. The Cleantech Index has six indicators related to an RPS, and California has five out of the six indicators.

A good year for solar and wind in California

California is the only state that has wide-scale deployment of all three leading renewable energy power sources (wind, solar and geothermal). Those three renewable sources make up over 12 percent of California’s in-state generated electricity mix. Clean Edge only measures a state’s in-state generated renewable energy. However, California purchases some of its renewable energy generation from other states.

There is room for California to grow when it comes to renewable energy. California is only fifth in the U.S. in percentage of generation from wind, solar, and geothermal. The top four states are from the Upper Midwest: Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. Wind makes up 24 percent of electricity generation Iowa and South Dakota, which makes those two states the national leaders in clean electricity generation.

Wilder pointed out that last year was a good year for California in terms of solar and wind capacity. In 2012, California added one gigawatt (GW) of solar to its energy mix. “It’s the first state to install a full GW in one year,” Wilder said. California is only ranked fourth in the percentage of generating capacity in solar. However, if it continues to add record amounts of capacity, as it did last year, it will not stay in the fourth spot.

The golden state moved ahead of Iowa in wind capacity last year. “California added more new capacity (1.65 GW) than any other state than Texas in 2012,” Wilder said. “2012 was an excellent year for wind in California.”

Massachusetts leads in several categories

In several categories, Massachusetts leads, including policy and capital, and California is number two in both categories. Why does Massachusetts beat California? “Massachusetts has a few more things in place that California doesn’t have,” according to Wilder. One of those things is a slightly better RPS. Massachusetts has all six of the checklist items for an RPS.

Massachusetts also has the second largest concentration of venture capital, behind California. It has the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, along with other universities with great technology programs. It also is number one in licensable university technologies per people.

Photo: Flickr user, kateausburn

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by