Investing in a sustainable economy

Good Jobs, Green Jobs workshop

Financing sustainable development might not be the topic that jazzes you up and gets you going.  Unlike global warming or deforestation, loans, bonds, equity, and risk aren’t exactly easy to get excited about and create a movement around.

As a panel of experts at a Good Jobs Green Jobs workshop explained yesterday, however, finance is a key part of creating a sustainable economy and combating climate change.  CAP’s Lisbeth Kaufman has the story

Without proper financing mechanisms and the policies to encourage them, it’s going to be very difficult to build the wind turbines, the solar panels, the electric car infrastructure that will be necessary to replace dirty fossil fuels and cut green house gas emissions.

This Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference workshop entitled “Investing in Our Future: A Sustainable Economy, a Secure Retirement, and Good Jobs” was one of many dozens at the conference organized by the Blue Green Alliance.  The panelists reviewed investing in renewable energy sources, low-carbon transportation, and efficient buildings, along with how investors approach sustainable development opportunities and what could push more capital into these areas.

What was striking about the conversation was that the panelists had been drawn to investment in sustainable development for different reasons, but all agreed that it was crucial to the future of the American economy.  Some of the experts at the workshop, like Kirsten Snow Spalding California Director of Ceres and Richard Metcalf, Director of Corporate Affairs for the Laborers’ International Union of North America, came to sustainable investment because they believe it as necessary to protect the environment and create jobs.  While Tom Croft, Executive Director of the Steel Valley Authority, and Mike Musaraca, Managing Director of Blue Wolf Capital Investments gravitated towards sustainable development purely because of its immense opportunity and profitability.

The panelists also agreed that there are serious gaps in the capital available for sustainable development projects.  This is a subject about which the Center of American Progress has a lot to say.  In our column, Leading in the Clean Energy Deployment Challenge we discuss the funding gaps, or “valleys of death” that are inhibiting deployment of clean energy on a large scale.    Like the panelists at the Green Jobs Good Jobs workshop, we believe that the country needs strong government initiatives to signal a commitment to clean energy and create the certainty needed to invest in sustainable development.  Smart tax policies, regulatory reforms to increase access to the grid, new contract structures and bonding, and coordination with state and local governments and utilities on everything from bonds to credit enhancements to billing systems all need to be in the mix if we’re to expand the roll of clean technology in meeting America’s economic and energy needs.

The Center for American Progress report, Cutting the Cost of Clean Energy dives deeper into the issues of capital gaps and investment in clean energy.  The primary impediments to private capital investments in clean energy is the high cost of capital, an uncertain regulatory environment, and a lack of infrastructure to support renewables, energy efficiency, and clean technology.   This report examines methods to reduce the cost of capital, reform regulations to create clean tech markets and new jobs, and invest in regional infrastructure to ensure sustained economic development and deployment of clean technology and energy.

While extreme politics and climate denial are the most obvious roadblocks to American deployment of clean energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the lack of available capital is a quieter but equally show-stopping impediment.   As the panelists at “Investing in Our Future” workshop discussed, and as the Center for American Progress has been arguing for years, the country needs strong policies to remove this road block.  While it’s a less exciting subject, investment in clean energy can be immensely profitable with the right policies, and can generate good well paying American jobs, which everyone, climate advocates and deniers alike, can agree is essential to American recovery.

A full agenda of the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference is available here.

Information on the Green Jobs Advocacy Day can be found here.

Lisbeth Kaufman is Special Assistant to the Energy Policy Team at American Progress

2 Responses to Investing in a sustainable economy

  1. Hey! Some of us are excited about green economics! In fact, we argue that economic and ecological systems aren’t particularly different. As green asset managers, for us, climate science and policy actually provide many of the macroeconomic inputs to our portfolio construction process. Put aside the Wall Street Journal, we actually find that understanding civilization’s greatest problems (we then work to identify and buy the companies providing the best solutions) is a far better predictor of investment performance than ephemera like the CPI.

  2. Hey, yourself!

    The company of which I am Chair of the Board, Silicon Solar Solutions, LLC, is striving to implement a fast low-temperature poly-silicon growth technique and license it to all and any solar cell manufacturers. The technique consolidates three steps (including a slow high-temperature batch process) in the manufacturing process into a single in-line low-temperature (lower energy), faster automatable method for producing large-grain poly-crystaline silicon film on top of commodity wafers. Applications include c-PV, thin-film silicon-based (non-toxic in process and in product, unlike Cd-Te thin film), and large LED and LCD manufacturing.

    The benefits include a 25% reduction of the amount of silicon needed in the reactive layer of a solar cell (the main cost for Si-PV) and an improvement in efficiency of the cells produced. As the article linked at the top points out, this process is the culmination of 30 years of research by Dr. Hameed Naseem.

    We are working under an NSF SBIR to further the thin-film application: and

    Secretary Chu’s “Sputnik Moment” is getting many responses from companies like ours. If the installed cost of PV is to reach $1 per watt and a fully amortized $0.06 per kWH, manufacturers will need technologies like Top-down Aluminum-Induced Crystallization (TAIC):'s+solar+technology+news%2C+today)

    The finance aspect of these technologies is challenging for a small business.