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Clean Tech Nation (Book Review)

While there have been many books written about renewable energy and clean technology in recent years, no book provides a clear, concise gameplan for clean technology and renewable energy moving forward like Clean Tech Nation does.

Image Credit: Harper Collins

Authors Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, who head up the clean tech research firm Clean Edge, use their various years of experience in the sector to give a clear understanding of not only the importance of this sector for the global economy, but also how the United States can lead the way in the 21st century economy.

Setting the Clean Tech Stage

The introduction, The Birth of Clean Tech, is very well written. It talks about clean tech’s deep roots in the telecommunications and information technology sectors. The intro provides excellent examples on just how much the clean energy sector has grown this decade, including how the global wind and solar PV markets grew more than 20 times from 2000 to 2010 ($6.5 billion to $131.6 billion). Pernick and Wilder, in the intro, describe seven C’s (Costs, Capital, Competition, China, Consumers, Climate, and Connectivity) that are driving the global market for the rapid deployment of clean energy and technologies around the world.

I tend to agree with all seven of the C’s pushing renewable energy’s growth since 2000, especially the newest C, Connectivity.  With connectivity, the authors refer both to the clearcut examples of smart grids, as well as to interconnection between information technology and clean technology companies. However, they also see connectivity much deeper as “the capability of instantaneous collaboration across the globe” (page 17). It could be as simple as writers like ours here at CleanTechnica working together from across the globe to write about renewable energy and clean transportation, or as in one of the examples in the book of a similar (but albeit larger) global initiative — GE’s Ecomagination campaign. I can understand how mass collaboration through Internet communication will be especially vital for this sector to flourish and create new economic opportunities for those in both developed and developing nations. It’s an imperative in this fast-growing industry and our fast-changing world.

Top Clean Tech Countries

The first chapter looks at the current global market place for clean technology, listing the top ten countries for clean technology, with China leading the way, the US second, and Germany third. Pernick and Wilder also highlight other emerging market countries in the top ten, including India and Brazil, thanks to their investments in solar and biofuels, respectively, and their efforts to entice global companies to come and invest there. The authors note in this chapter that this should be a wakeup call for US citizens and leaders to move towards clean technology as a key to its economic future.

Top Clean Tech States & US Cities

Chapter two looks at the top ten US states for clean tech: California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, and Colorado are the top five. All of the top ten states had strong characteristics that made them unique: including specializing in certain renewable energies or technologies, solid policy, or a strong green manufacturing base. For example, take Minnesota, which placed eighth — it is ranked fifth overall in installed wind capacity, has the most biofuel stations in the US (with 350), and the state mandates 25% of all its electricity comes from renewable sources by 2025. The state, according to the book, also makes hybrid buses (New Flyer), wind turbine parts, and solar panels, something that would make a jurisdiction strong in the clean tech economy.

Chapter three talks about the strongest US cities leading the way, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and New York, which are not surprising leaders, of course.


Clean Tech Trends & Plans

However, the meat and potatoes come in the last three chapters. Chapter Four goes into the some of the more interesting global developments in clean technology, and how they are advancing. These include: smart grids, electric vehicles, green buildings, and waste-to-resource technologies. Both Pernick and Wilder here do an excellent job explaining the importance on how these trends will affect the economy, specifically laying timeframes to carry out these technologies from today to ten years time.

Chapter Five, called The Clean-Tech Imperative, goes right into the heart on clean tech’s importance, and takes a knife through political divide in order to create some bipartisanship for clean energy. I especially like how the authors highlight the security need for renewable energy. As the authors say, “to military leaders its increasingly a matter of life and death” (page 205). Examples like this give it such an authentic appeal outside of the normal environmental crowd. They also highlight 25 key shakers in the sector, ranging from former politicians (Jennifer Granholm) to entrepreneurs (Elon Musk) who will all play an important role in advancing clean energy in a hostile environment.

In the last chapter, authors provide a seven-point plan to “Repower America” (yep, we’ve posted that), which includes a national renewable electricity standard of 30% by 2030, a national smart infrastructure bank, using military innovation to advance renewable energy, open-source collaboration to set standards, a federally supported clean tech innovation prize, phasing out all energy subsidies within ten years, and using proven investment tools from the oil, gas, and real estate sectors.

All of the suggestions given by the authors are realistic, especially the US national standard of 30% by 2030 and continued military innovation. Both authors are optimistic (yet realistic) about moving policy forward, which is important to get bi-partisan support from both Republicans (namely in Midwestern states) and Democrats.

An anti-thesis to Ozzie Zehner’s Green Illusions, which was released this year and claimed renewable energy is overhyped, Clean Tech Nation is a must read by politicians of all political stripes, businesses people, investors, policymakers, and environmentalists who believe clean technology and renewables are society’s best way forward for a sustainable economy this century.

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Written By

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business


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