What influence will president-elect Donald Trump have on the environment? While fear among environmentalists is justified, especially given Trump’s decision to appoint pollution accomplice Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, it masks a reality. Perhaps the question should be: given the growth of the cleantech marketplace, does the environment need Trump’s protection?
In the United States and abroad, a cleantech economy is steadily growing. In California, this growth has been fueled by high air quality standards, building codes, and ambitious climate change laws established over a decade ago. Fuel efficiency standards have catapulted the electric vehicle market forward in the state, helped launch new companies like Tesla, and spurred infrastructure improvements. Similarly, California’s renewable energy goals have created clean technology innovations, energy efficiency developments, and new software and finance programs.
“California clean energy businesses are not the be all and end all, but they are providing resources for other businesses to succeed,” Danny Kennedy, managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF), said in an exclusive interview with CleanTechnica. “I think that’s going to accelerate in the post-Trump reality.”
Kennedy should know — he has worked in the cleantech field for decades. As manager of Greenpeace’s California Clean Energy Campaign, he helped create the California Solar Initiative and ushered in the state’s solar energy boom. He cofounded Powerhouse (formerly called SfunCube), the world’s first solar-focused incubator and accelerator; serves on the board of the Solar Foundation; and was a founding board director of Mosaic, a solar investment startup in Oakland.
Kennedy’s new program, New Energy Nexus, which he co-founded last year under the umbrella CalCEF, aims to accelerate the growth of California businesses and cleantech entrepreneurs and startups around the world. New Energy Nexus organized India’s first solar hackathon, which challenged participants to develop new solar software technologies. At an event in Australia, participants developed an app that allows electric vehicle drivers to share driveway charging stations. The “sharing” platform mimics Airbnb and Uber.
“The whole economic structure was set up over the course of a weekend,” Kennedy said.
New Energy Nexus doesn’t simply help new startups launch, however. It also builds a bridge between existing startup communities. At at the PowerLab event in Shanghai in November, New Energy Nexus invited 7 startups from Silicon Valley, California, to participate in a pitch session and full day workshop. At the event, 5 Chinese teams were also selected to deliver presentations. The event facilitated idea sharing and connections between these two markets.
Asian Development Bank’s decision to co-found New Energy Nexus brings a certain clout to these events. In 2009, the bank adopted an energy policy to “help developing member countries provide reliable, adequate, and affordable energy for economic growth in a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable way.” To further this policy, ADB has providing major funding packages to boost clean energy programs.
“We’re working with all the right people and partnering with the best and the brightest minds,” Kennedy said. “[New Energy Nexus] has had more traction in less than a year that I could have possibly hoped for.”
The traction of New Energy Nexus is evidence that the growth of clean energy businesses will only grow during a Trump administration. Established policies and laws have already sparked a demand for fuel-efficiency and clean energy. Even if those policies and laws are challenged by the Trump administration, demand will still exist on the state and local level in the United States and in foreign countries.
This growing marketplace is a powerful ally for the environment. The reality is, Trump cannot trump cleantech’s momentum without curbing this demand and hurting the economy.