Los Angeles is known first and foremost for its colossal influence on the entertainment industry but aside from Hollywood, LA is a bustling, massive industrial hub where labor, business and government efforts are working together to make the city’s industries sustainable as well. With access to the ports, a strong, skilled workforce, a robust university presence, and industry groups such as CleanTech Los Angeles, the city is primed for growth in the cleantech sector. Here’s the top 10 ways/reasons Los Angeles is having a large influence on cleantech.
1. Los Angeles is No. 1 with most cleantech companies in California. According to a report released by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in August 2010, Los Angeles County tops the state with 490 businesses and work places that specialize in five sectors of cleantech industry: low-carbon energy, energy efficiency, transportation, green buildings and carbon markets. The data includes both public and private sector employers and shows that the number of cleantech businesses and green work spaces is up by 60% from 2009..
2. Los Angeles is a true solar city. Solar LA is the largest and most ambitious solar plan undertaken by any single city in the world. Initially unveiled by Mayor Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in late 2008, it lays out a far-reaching course of action to create a network of residential, commercial and municipally-owned solar structures to replace more volatile fossil fuels, such as coal during peak energy demand.
3. Los Angeles is funding its own policy goals. Led by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the City of Los Angeles and the State of California have driven innovative policies shaping the green economy in the region. From the green building ordinance, to renewable energy standards, The LA River Revitalization Plan, Solar LA to the Mayor’s Water Plan, the City leadership is finding solutions for both the region’s environmental needs and to drive international and local markets. Since 2008, the city has been investing more than $10 billion to drive the green economy and the cleantech industry. The mayor’s leadership, which has been called, “bold and visionary,” is backed by unified support of city policies and regulatory incentives.
4. Los Angeles is committed to collaboration. CleanTech Los Angeles (CleanTech LA) brings together business, government, and academia to grow the cleantech sector in Los Angeles.
Founded in 2009, CleanTech LA works to promote sustainability and economic growth by connecting LA’s cleantech professionals, telling LA’s cleantech story to the world, and supporting collaborative research, technology commercialization and job creation. With the right mix of organizations, CleanTech Los Angeles shows a serious commitment to growing and leading the cleantech industry in Los Angeles, and a serious potential for success. Its goals are to create jobs, stimulate demand and to facilitate environmental solutions. Member organizations include: Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, The Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, UCLA, USC, Caltech, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Central City Association, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Business Council and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.
5. Los Angeles is a magnet for cleantech investment. Investors love Los Angeles. According to Ernst & Young, Southern California is a prime place to invest, second only to the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2009, Sothern California received annual investment of $329.5 million. Some of these investors include, but aren’t limited to: Craton Equity Partners, DJF Frontier, NGEN Partners LLC, and US Renewables Group.
6. Los Angeles at the forefront of research. Los Angeles is crawling with engineering schools and boasts one of the top clusters of research universities in the world. Alone, the city will be receiving nearly $40 million in DOE funds to accelerate scientific breakthroughs needed for “build a 21st century economy.” Caltech, UCLA and USC were among 46 sites selected by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science in 2009 to receive investment funds over five years for Energy Frontier Research Centers related to advanced materials and solar energy.
7. Los Angeles is pioneering the green port. PortTechLA is a clean technology incubator located adjacent to to the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. It is establishing a new technology-driven economic base for the San Pedro Bay port communities, and helping meet the environmental goals of the Ports’ Clean Air Action Plan. PortTechLA identifies, attracts and mentors companies with advanced technologies to enable sustainable port growth through environmental stewardship, as well as efficient and safe flow of international trade to and from ports.
8. Los Angeles is smart. The Smart Grid Demonstration Project provides $60M of federal matching funds for the development and demonstration of smart grid energy management solutions in LA. This five year project was awarded on a competitive basis and is the largest single award of its type in the country. In late 2009, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) in conjunction with the consortium of other CleanTech LA partners, including USC, UCLA and JPL, was awarded funding on behalf of the The Smart Grid Demonstration Project, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and a program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The grant provides financial support for organizations who
are innovative in their approach to applying and integrating existing and emerging smart grid technologies.
9. Los Angeles has the vision for urban cleantech design. The Southern California Institute of Architecture and The Architect’s Newspaper extended an open invitation for a competition to re-imagine, re-invent and revolutionize LA’s urban fabric into shades of green. Entrants to the Clean Tech Corridor and Green District Competition were asked to move beyond industrial uses to create an integrated economic, residential, clean energy and cultural space through architectural and urban strategies. The competition winners were announced in October 2010. At the awards ceremony, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said it’s his aim that the Green Corridor will transform LA’s downtown industrial core “into an incubator for green jobs and technology” and that it will lead to sustainable growth for LA’s economy as well as place LA at the forefront of the cleantech revolution.
10. Los Angeles has staying power. As the leader in fashion, aerospace, entertainment, health services, tourism and (moving toward a leading role in) clean technology, the world looks to Los Angeles to define the trends and the cool factor in manufacturing. As the city’s cleantech influence grows, other cities and states are looking towards Los Angeles (and California at-large) for inspiration, best practices and validation of both technologies and policies. While some trends may come and go, cleantech is a movement that is propelling cities like Los Angeles into lasting leadership roles in the 21st century.
Shawn Lesser is the 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