Monday, March 1, 2010

Special Report: Green Technology - Can Green Technology Propel Economic Development?

Chad Vander Veen's article in the March 2010 Governing magazine includes quotes from Matt Cheroutes, CCIA Founding Board Member:

"That's the case in Colorado, where Gov. Bill Ritter ordered his Energy Office, Economic Development Office and state CIO to collaborate on ways to nurture green technology start-ups and create demand among consumers for emerging — and typically more expensive — green products.

Colorado is testing a new Discovery Grant Program designed to help early stage companies, which are often simply groups of researchers attempting to take an idea out of the lab and into the commercial market.

'At that point, there's not a lot of available seed capital. So to give them some small grants at the very beginning really shows great support from the state,' says Matt Cheroutes, director of communications and external affairs for the Colorado Governor's Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Cheroutes, a founding member of the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association, says strong executive support for green technology in Colorado will lead to job growth and economic prosperity. But that won't happen, he says, unless companies can deliver their products to a public that can afford them — a tall order in green tech markets that are often too immature to deliver at affordable economies of scale.

Cheroutes says the state works closely with renewable energy firms to develop incentives for consumers. Take solar power, for example, where the cost of installing solar panels typically doesn't pencil out for the average homeowner.

'We've had a lot of people in our state say they want solar on their homes,' Cheroutes says. 'But they simply can't afford the initial investment to do it. We've seen estimates anywhere from $8,000 for a very small home to $15,000 for a medium-sized home. These days, not a lot of people have the ability to pay that.'

The state worked with two Colorado solar firms — SolarCity and SunRun — to develop a financing model that makes solar installations more affordable. Instead of paying the full installation fee upfront, consumers instead put up a down payment that is a fraction of the total cost. Over the next three or four years, the energy savings the consumer realizes goes back to the solar company to pay the remaining balance. After the company is paid in full, the consumer's energy bill decreases significantly. . .

'The culture has changed in Colorado,' says Cheroutes. 'It's something that everyone in Colorado has sort of agreed to and bought in to. And whether that's out of a desire to protect our mountains or to keep our kids from being sent halfway around the world to fight, or if it's to keep kids who are home employed and working, it's a cultural mind change, and sometimes those are the hardest things to deal with in the beginning. So if you have the will of the people, of industry and of political leaders, you can make anything happen.'"

Link to the article

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