The U.S. launch of the Global CleanTECH Cluster Association took place in America’s Finest City San Diego, California last month. With this Association, a partnership representing more than 20 leading cleantech clusters, hosting this launch was quite a plum for San Diego. But then, the San Diego region is deserving of this accolade, having distinguished itself as a cleantech leader over the course of the past decade.
1. A vibrant cleantech ecosystem facilitated by CleanTECH SanDiego, a non-profit member organization dedicated to stimulating demand for clean technology solutions. CleanTECH San Diego’s powerfully diverse membership base features world class universities, innovative technology companies, institutions, investors, municipalities and service providers all in one stable. CleanTECH San Diego executive vice-president, Holly Smithson, stated it best: “We’re here to marshal our mighty green forces.”
2. An impressive cluster of cleantech companies. Over 800 companies operating in the cleantech space are calling the San Diego region home.. These companies represent a diverse range of industries from smart grid to green construction techniques and materials to transport technology to solar, and biofuels, to wave, and ocean energy research.
3. Intellectual horsepower supported by leading universities and over 50 regional research institutes including UC San Diego, San Diego State University, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. and BIOCOM. Together with partnerships with the City of San Diego and others, these cleantech experts combine synergistically to accelerate the adoption of clean-tech activities.
4. Home to the 1# smartest utility in the nation: Sempra Energy. For the second straight year, Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric is ranked as the most intelligent utility in America, according to IDC. The UtiliQ ranking uses five criteria to evaluate utilities: operational efficiency, commitment to integrating renewables, smart energy initiatives, demand response/energy efficiency programs, and information technology investments in support of business process improvements.
5. A wealth of year-round sunlight and a community keen on harnessing it for cleantech energy generation. San Diego a solar hotbed, with more photovoltaic rooftop installations than in any other city in the United States. A little more than a decade ago, there were only about 500 PV rooftop installations in the area. That number has grown to more than 50,000 rooftops producing more than 500 megawatts today, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. It’s no wonder that San Diego has been ranked No. 1 in the state of California and in the nation for solar power: San Diego County produces more solar power than every state except New Jersey and has more installations than Texas and Florida combined.
6. Public and private support for Clean Energy. CleanTECH San Diego recently led a collaboration that resulted in the San Diego region securing an allocation of $154 million for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs). These can be used by municipalities to install an additional 20 megawatts of solar power for home and business use. U.C. San Diego alone received $15 million to fund 15 renewable energy projects. The region-wide sum of $154 million will be used to support cleantech energy projects at over 190 separate facilities in the greater San Diego area. San Diego’s leadership in this arena cannot be doubted: one of every five dollars available nationally came to San Diego with this collaborative public-private partnership.
7. An educated workforce able to make the leap into cleantech jobs. San Diego is home to one of the nation’s most highly educated populations, with a large number of colleges and universities spread across the county to train and retrain the workforce as needed. These characteristics enable San Diego to take advantage of changing economic conditions as the nation transitions to cleantech power sources and energy alternatives.
8. Region’s legacy and leadership as an early adopter of new technologies. San Diego has long been in the forefront of technology innovation and concern for the environment.
9. San Diego awarded iHUB designation. San Diego County’s role as a hotbed of clean technology innovation received official recognition from the State. Governor Schwarzenegger, who designated the San Diego region as an official California Innovation Hub. The designation allows the 35-member consortium that runs the San Diego iHub program to apply for federal funding from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan.
10. Cleantech San Diego embodies a culture of collaboration that is critical to advancing complex and converging industries. The convergence of cleantech and biotech represents one of San Diego’s greatest strengths: its ability to bring together government, business and academic institutions in support of cutting-edge industries. We’ve seen this many times before — from its role as a leader in the biotechnology and information technology industries, to its emerging status as a cleantech leader. In particular, the EDGE initiative is a national model of how to introduce workforce development into a growing sector in a strategic manner. Its work has the potential not only to accelerate the development of a viable biofuels industry, but also to make sure that industry is inclusive, adaptive, and provides opportunities to historically disadvantaged communities.
Article by Shawn Lesser, president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association
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