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Top Ten Cleantech Governors in the United States

Throughout the United States, the use of clean technologies can only go so far with the private sector pushing for the use of sources of renewable energy and for the adoption of more energy efficient policies. The truth is that the cleantech sector is only as strong as the governor that assists in pushing through cleantech legislation, making new initiatives, and launching new programs in an effort to make their state more energy efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels, thereby lowering carbon emissions and creating a more sustainable future for oncoming generations.

1) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown – California. Since Arnold Schwarzenegger and held by new governor Jerry Brown, California has one of the most aggressive targets for greenhouse gas reduction throughout the nation. For his efforts, in 2010, Schwarzenegger was awarded the Cleantech OC Visionary Award. The award was created to honor an individual whose cleantech contributions have made a large impact on the Orange County cleantech industry and throughout the entire state. Gregory Trimarche, Cleantech OC Chair said, “Under Governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership, California has passed groundbreaking legislation and has positioned itself as a leader in innovation and economic growth in the renewable energy and clean technology sectors.” Not to be outdone by the former governor, current governor Jerry Brown created a green jobs plan along with further investment into clean power technologies.

2) Bill Ritter – Colorado. Colorado’s government, led by Governor Bill Ritter, has been instrumental in increasing the utilization of clean technologies. In fact, Greenopia recently named Ritter “The Greenest Governor” throughout the nation. The legislature passed more than 50 legislations involving clean technologies. The Renewable Portfolio Standard is one of the most ambitious in the country. Ritter recently announced the creation of a state-wide supply chain study for solar, wind, and smart grid sectors which will be lead by the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster and the Colorado Association for Advanced Manufacturing. Ritter has also been working with the Colorado Department of Labor in an effort to create the Green Jobs Colorado Initiative to create more employment opportunities within the cleantech sector.

3) Deval Patrick – Massachusetts. Governor Deval Patrick has realized that in order to get the best in cleantech, you have to travel to the countries that have the best the cleantech sector is able to offer. In march, he visited Israel, arguably one of the largest cleantech countries in the world, to meet with business leaders in an effort to learn how to expand cleantech businesses, increase jobs, and collaboration. Patrick has already been instrumental in making Massachusetts a leader in the cleantech industry and with more than 100 Israeli businesses in the state now, with more than 6,000 employed, Patrick is looking to increase this.

4) Ed Rendell – Pennsylvania. Governor Ed Rendell has been very big in removing the need for fossil fuels through his strong leadership capabilities and ability to attract a large number of clean technology startup companies. Even when he was only the mayor of Philadelphia, he did a lot of stomping for going green. Rendell has also established a $650 million energy fund to further support the clean technology sector. In December, Rendell announced a number of new large-scale power and heat projects that will provide ample energy for 180,000 homes annually as well as decrease total carbon emissions. Rendell said that “These projects will provide a significant boost to our economy by creating [a number of new jobs and attracting]$15.7 million in additional investments.”

5) M. Jodi Rell – Connecticut. In 2009, Governor M. Jodi Rell announced the first investment through the Connecticut Cleantech Fund which was $500,000 to the Oil Purification Systems. The fund was established to promote the clean technology industry in the state by elevating companies finding innovative routes toward energy conservation and renewable energy resources, as well as environmental protection. About the creation of the fund, Rell said, “The goal is very simple – create jobs in what we see as a major growth industry. Projects like this will not only help increase the number of green technologies jobs in the state now, they will help ensure that Connecticut is a preferred location for new businesses tackling climate change and other global challenges.”

6) David Patterson – New York. Because of New York State’s high clean technology aspirations, Governor David Patterson has been doing what he can to maintain those aspirations and keep New York on the cleantech map and has high renewable energy goals, including 45 percent renewable energy by 2015. This includes the creation of New York First, a website designed for new businesses interested in relocating to the state, providing necessary assets and resources for the cleantech industry grown, creating cleantech-friendly policies, and the provision of funding to businesses assisting in the research, development, and implementation of clean technologies.

7) Jon Corzine – New Jersey. Governor Jon Corzine has been instrumental in making New Jersey one of the premier states for solar energy. For example, in 2009, Corzine announced the creation of 4,000 solar energy installations with over 90 MW throughout the state. According to Corzine at the time, “New Jersey continues to be ahead of the curve on energy preservation, implementation of innovative approached to energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. Our ‘world-class’ status is credited to our commitment to environmentally responsible action and competitive marketplace initiative.” Corzine’s administration also created the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate program.

8 ) Jennifer Granholm – Michigan. In 2010, Governor Jennifer Granholm stated that Michigan is ready to become “the place where climate change solutions are researched, developed, and produced.” Currently, her administration is looking to pass a number of bills that would regulate off-shore wind farms, and new efforts are taking place to build wind turbines throughout Michigan. Granholm is making Michigan look competitive against several states all vying to be the first the build wind turbines in the Great Lakes.

9) Pat Quinn – Illinois. Governor Pat Quinn has been working very hard to pass a number of legislations and acts to assist in the state-wide implementation of clean technologies. For example, the Green Cleaning Schools Acts requires that all public and private elementary and secondary schools with a student population over 50 utilize environmentally sensitive cleaning and maintenance products. In another example, in February of 2011, Quinn announced a new initiative to increase sustainability efforts throughout the states through the utilization of electric vehicles. This initiative calls for an investment of $1 million in funding to install an electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout Chicago.

10) Phil Bredesen – Tennessee. Governor Phil Bredesen has turned Tennessee into a major hub for cleantech, helping it land two major cleantech deals with Waker Chemie and Hemlock Semiconductor. Bredesen has also worked alongside Matt Kisber, Economic and Community Development Commissioner, to assist in further positioning Tennessee as a cleantech industry powerhouse. Breseden was also the one who announced the creation of the Volunteer State Solar Initiative – a solar-energy and economic development program that will increase job creation, research, education, and renewable power production throughout the state.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at

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2 comments on “Top Ten Cleantech Governors in the United States

I love the list, minus Granholm, who is perhaps the worst governor in the country… No clue how she makes the list, or gets reelected.

Dave Van't Hof

Could not agree more about the importance of governor leadership, in collaboration with the private sector, on clean energy policy. Good starter list with one glaring ommission, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, and hopefully his successor (and predecessor!) John Kitzhaber. As Oregon Governor Kulongoski’s Sustainability Advisor for seven years I can attest to his leadership on everything from creating the nation’s most favorable incentives for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean technology manufacturing, to among the nation’s most aggressive renewable portfolio standards, to regional and national leadership in championing the Western Climate Initiative, electric vehicles, and clean cars and low carbon fuel standards. As a result of this leadership and policy, Oregon has ranked #2 in the nation two years running (after only California) in Clean Edge’s annual survey of Clean Energy Leadership by state.

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