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Scaling Clean

A few weeks ago, my Tigercomm colleague Mark Sokolove and I were able to take Scaling Green’s Communicating Energy lecture series on the road to the Solar Power International 2011 (SPI) conference and trade show in Dallas, Texas. While there, we spoke with several leaders in the solar and cleantech industries. You can read about and view the interviews on The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) National Solar Jobs Census 2011 – a census showing record jobs growth in the industry - on Scaling Green. Today, we turn our focus to the wildly inflated Solyndra story.

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Prior to the eruption of the Solyndra story, we had the opportunity to have Stephen Lacey of ClimateProgress as a Scaling Green “Communicating Energy” lecture series guest. He became well known in cleantech circles during his years as editor and producer at Renewable Energy World, where he won a 2010 Neal Award for his Inside Renewable Energy podcast. Since then, Lacey’s risen to wider national recognition as an influential energy and environmental writer at ClimateProgress, run by climate policy blogging giant Joe Romm.

Summer vacations and the Solyndra swirl had me wait an embarrassingly long time before posting the highlights of Stephen’s visit with us. His points back then? That clean energy policy will be “a long slog;” that energy policy circles largely ignore government welfare to dirty energy while exaggerating the relatively miniscule policy support provided to clean energy; and that Washington generally doesn’t “get” cleantech. The post-Solyndra salience of his pre-Solyndra remarks show the quality of Stephen’s periscope.

His thoughts on where clean energy is heading:

Generally, the trends within the business community are pretty positive, and moving from reporting on the business of clean energy and coming down to DC to be closer to the political environment, I’ve been struck how difficult things are here…we reached the 1-year mark last Friday of when Congress and the President dropped a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill.  And one year on, we have no movement on a clean energy standard, we have the loan guarantee program running out of funds. …and our biggest political fights are over the efficiency of light bulbs and whether or not we should have Styrofoam in the congressional cafeterias.

Lacey also noted, in a discussion preceding this lecture, that, although “cleantech is hot in lots of parts of the country…people in DC don’t get it. The national policy discussion is very backwards,” a combination of “institutional inertia and the influence of polluting industry lobbyists.” As a result of these forces holding back clean energy, Lacey concluded, the policy discussion in Washington, DC is “going to be a long slog.”

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