Over the past few months, we’ve heard growing speculation about the coming “crash” in the clean-tech sector. Wired published a widely-read piece, “Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust,” The New Republic attempted to write Secretary Chu’s obituary, and some analysts expressed understandable concern about the depletion of Recovery Act funds and expiring tax credits.
Now the data is in, and it’s telling a much different story. Last year, VC investment in U.S. clean-tech companies reached a record high of $4.3 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, and total global investment in clean energy reached a record $260 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And despite bankruptcies like Solyndra and Evergreen Solar, the U.S. reclaimed the top spot for global clean energy investment, attracting $56 billion compared to $47.4 billion by China.
Some advocates and pundits hoped the “clean-tech crash” story would serve as a productive wake-up call to ramp up federal investments and reform existing subsidies. Unfortunately, it has had the opposite effect, pouring more fuel on the Solyndra firestorm, creating misguided perceptions of clean energy as a “failed” industry unworthy of public support, and encouraging some fossil fuel-backed groups to invest millions of dollars in anti-cleantech campaign ads.
Does the federal government need to further optimize its investments in the sector? Absolutely. But the time has come to bust the “clean-tech crash” myth and tell the public the truth: the clean energy industry is experiencing robust growth, and with strengthened public-private partnerships to further unleash our innovative and manufacturing capacity, the U.S. is positioned to lead the world in this multi-trillion dollar market opportunity.