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Google is backing it. So is Warren Buffett, America’s most-watched investor. GE, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers, is too.

Each of these corporate icons is placing big bets and hundreds of millions of dollars on a future powered by wind and solar power. Apple just joined them, announcing plans to power its main U.S. data center in Maiden, North Carolina, entirely with renewable energy by the end of this year. So why - yet again - are pundits making dire warnings about prospects for renewable energy?

The answer is that the clean tech industry is at a critical crossroads.

This post was written with Heleen de Coninck, Programme Manager at the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands. It was originally published on the Climate & Development Knowledge Network.

On February 15-17, the UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee (TEC) held its second meeting. On May 28-29, it will meet again. The TEC is informally called the “policy arm” of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism, which aims to enhance climate technology development and transfer for mitigation and adaptation. Despite its importance, the TEC has not been much discussed or studied. In this blog, two followers of the UNFCCC technology negotiations give their views on how the TEC can make a difference for addressing climate change.

This post was written by Nicholas Bianco, Senior Associate, WRI, and Rolf Nordstrom, Executive Director, Great Plains Institute

We are launching a new online tool, the Power Almanac of the American Midwest, that will assist government officials, industry leaders, energy analysts and others in making informed energy decisions in the region. The Almanac integrates key energy and environmental data from some 50 disparate sources, tailored to the Midwest region, in a graphic and easy-to-use way.

The Almanac is built around a dynamic interface that allows users to explore the power sector through interactive Google maps, graphs, and charts. You can use it to learn more about an individual coal mine or power plant, or to compare wind and solar resources in the Midwest to the rest of the United States. You will also find a range of other useful background, including up-to-date information on relevant state and federal energy policies.

Clean tech in the United States has been on the rise in recent years— even through the recession and other challenges. Increasing wind power, falling solar costs, expanding electric vehicle markets, government stimulus and other investments have built a global clean tech sector that topped $263 billion last year.

In the first quarter of 2012, however, global clean energy investment dropped to its lowest level since 2008. Good news stories are being replaced with headlines about closing factories, bankruptcies, and cancelled projects. Clean tech appears to be at a crucial inflection point.

This piece was written with Graham Provost, intern at the World Resources Institute.

The agenda at this week’s Pacific Energy Summit, hosted by the National Bureau of Asian Research, in Hanoi, Vietnam, includes increasing energy security, expanding access to energy, and decarbonizing the power sector. Given these goals, plus the staggering growth in energy demand in Asia, as well as increasingly volatile fossil fuel prices and rapidly falling renewable energy costs, there are many opportunities to scale up renewable energy throughout the region. (For more on renewable energy’s rapid growth see here and here.) In order to take advantage of this fast-moving sector and develop internationally competitive domestic industries, countries need to have a strong capacity for innovation.

A new conference paper, "Taking Renewable Energy to Scale in Asia," explores these opportunities and challenges for the Summit Participants.

On March 9, 2012, the Ohio Public Utility Commission hosted a workshop for the Pilot Program on Combined Heat and Power, which it has launched in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The workshop convened industrial companies, energy experts, and state-level policymakers to discuss the role of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology in complying with upcoming federal Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standards. The CHP pilot program in Ohio is an important precedent that recognizes the potential for U.S. industry to raise its energy productivity while improving the health of workers and surrounding communities.

Policymakers at all levels of government are focusing on getting the economy moving again. Recent economic news suggests that the manufacturing sector, which has struggled in recent decades and lost 30% of its workforce between 2000 and 2010, is leading the U.S. out of recession.

By including industrial energy efficiency as a core component of economic development strategies, policymakers can help ensure that today’s capital investments in infrastructure and industry leave U.S. manufacturers better positioned to compete in the 21st century.

This post originally appeared in the National Journal Energy & Environment Expert Blog. The question was, “Where Can Government Energy R&D Have Most Impact?”

Innovation in breakthrough energy technologies is notoriously challenging, despite having potentially large rewards. Individual innovations are embedded in larger systems where change is very hard. These innovations often carry significant capital costs to demonstrate, commercialize, or reach economies of scale. Unlike the latest cell phone, consumers are often unwilling to pay more for a new energy innovation, especially when the rewards are in the future.

This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

In his annual State of the Union address, President Obama declared: “I will not walk away from clean energy.”

His words were a sharp rebuttal to critics harping on the Solyndra bankruptcy and others making dire predictions about the downfall of the renewable energy industry.

So, who is right? Will 2012 be a breakthrough year for renewable, or will it collapse?


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