Pass Vital Policies
Not all these innovators will succeed. But imagine if half of our cars were powered by electricity instead of imported gasoline. Or that half of our homes and businesses were powered by sunlight and wind instead of natural gas and coal. Entrepreneurs are working hard, but entrepreneurs and venture capitalists cannot do it alone. We need five vital policies that will drive investment, innovation and jobs in green technology.
- A unified, national smart grid. Now is the time to build the infrastructure for wide-scale deployment of our renewable energy sources. We must be able to move, monitor and manage our electricity usage effectively.
- A price on carbon and a cap on carbon emissions. We need to account for the true costs of emitting greenhouse gases. We cannot continue dumping 70 million tons of CO2 into our atmosphere every day as if it is a free, open sewer. A price on carbon will propel carbonless innovations such as solar cells, wind turbines and countless others to market, at scale, more quickly.
- A national renewable portfolio standard. Standards imposed by states have stimulated $65 billion in expenditures. A nationwide renewable portfolio standard will allow faster deployment of energy innovations, with more scale and more jobs. The U.S. Department of Energy projects that a 20 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2030 would create 500,000 jobs, save consumers $128 billion through lower natural gas prices, and cut the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as taking 140 million automobiles off the road.
- Utility regulations and incentives to encourage efficiency. We need to unleash utilities so they can invest in efficiency gains. Over 20 years efficiency programs run by California’s utilities have saved $56 billion and created 1.5 million jobs. Get this single federal policy right, and it will create the biggest, fastest and most energy-efficient engine for new jobs: for contractors, builders, engineers, project managers and more.
- Serious funding for R&D&D (deployment) at scale. We need more federal funding for basic research. Today, with few exceptions, the Department of Energy spends less than $1 billion for all renewable energy research. But we also need funding for deployment—the second D in R&D&D. America needs federal grants and loan guarantees to show that these technologies will work on a large scale. We should streamline the process, allow riskier bets and help to bring new technologies to market. Tax incentives for renewables and efficiency are another must. Let’s make tax incentives flexible enough to work in our current economy and be fully refundable, to encourage companies to invest in expensive scaling risks.
Energy is a $6-trillion market, with four billion electricity users. It is the mother of all markets, perhaps the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century. With policy leadership, America can create millions of new green technology jobs and industries and repower the country’s economy. By acting quickly and investing in technologies and entrepreneurs to build American leadership in the New Green Economy, we have a unique opportunity to simultaneously address our economic, climate and energy security crises.
This article was originally published with the title The Green Road to Prosperity.