July 8, 2011 | Climate Change, Engineering + Technology

If you didn’t notice the announcement of Clean Energy Innovation, a new report and interactive website by Google's philanthropic arm, or like me, you didn’t immediately check it out, you need to do it now. Go ahead; I’ll wait.
Header of the Google Energy Innovation website




We have an intense national debate about debt, jobs and economic policy going on right now, and this Google site offers a clear, credible and comprehensive picture of the immense economic impact of clean energy technology innovation. It also dismays me.

Symbols representing Impact of Energy Innovation on GDP and JobsThe Immense Impact

Past studies and assessments have offered large clean energy impact numbers for GDP increase or decrease, number of jobs gained or lost, or CO2 emissions reduction, but in my opinion, they have been out of date, or skewed by bias (oil industry studies, anyone?) or simplistic in the factors considered.  The power of the Google site is in providing neutral public data sets with clearly delineated scenario assumptions, and an interactive model that allows you to explore trade offs as you seek to optimize the public good.

Want to see what happens if as a nation we continue with BAU (Business As Usual)? Click to see a flat line graph. Disagree with the likelihood of changes in public policy to incentivize clean energy and disincentivize coal, then turn off that impact factor. Want to see what happens if natural gas is not heavily regulated and the price stays at an artificially low level of $3/MMBTU? Click.

The Dismay

Google’s Clean Energy Innovation site is a major, positive contribution that helps thinking people to explore and develop solutions. My dismay arises from being unable to think of similarly positive, unbiased contributions within the wind industry. Perhaps I am naive, but I still believe leadership includes rising above self-interest to recognize the larger public good. If you ignore self-interested lobbying messages, I am hearing very little that is helpful from key players within our own industry about the interrelated factors affecting innovation, carbon reduction, price, policy, jobs and the economy. (I am not claiming that any other energy sector is doing any better, but as a member of the wind industry that is where I look first.)

As wind industry leaders, I believe we can, and should, do more to contribute in a positive way to the public debate about our energy future. What do you think? Am I all wet, or do you agree? Your comments are welcome.