Victory for Obama: A Mandate for Clean Energy

With President Obama’s victory, the renewable energy industry keeps an important ally in the White House. The win comes at a time when energy is rising in national importance.

Given the extent to which the opposition made renewable energy an issue, I think the President’s win gives him a mandate to make clean energy a key part of the agenda for his second term. Now is the time to rally the industry around a comprehensive plan to make our nation’s energy supply more secure, clean and affordable.

Over the last four years, our nation’s energy situation has changed for the better in two important ways:

  1. Wind and solar have proven they can play a significant role in mainstream energy markets as an affordable source of clean electricity.  That’s thanks in part to President Obama’s leadership on the ARRA stimulus programs that bridged the industry through the global financial crisis.
  2. The boom in U.S. shale gas production has fundamentally altered our domestic energy options, edging out coal as the fossil fuel of choice.

These developments open new doors in terms of how we think about our energy future. With abundant and cheap solar, wind, and natural gas we can effectively have it all — a secure and stable mix of domestically-sourced clean energy at no additional cost over the status quo.

But there are pitfalls in our new found abundance as well. If we’re not careful we could end up overly dependent on gas, leaving us exposed to future price shocks. Leadership is required to define our national energy goals and keep the country on the right path.

The attacks during the campaign on solar and renewables — and climate change for that matter — were as fierce and they were well-funded. Despite those attacks, public opinion about renewables proved to be resilient. Solar and wind remain the top two most positively viewed energy sources with bipartisan favorability ratings in excess of 80%. Americans clearly understand the benefit of renewables and I think the President can rightfully claim a mandate to pursue a clean energy agenda.

The solar industry and SEIA stand ready to do our part. We’re continuing to drive out cost, accelerating solar’s transition to competitive markets and reduced dependency on government incentives. What we need in return is a stable policy environment that enables our industry to plan with confidence and ensures the flow of capital to good projects and companies.

Congratulations President Obama on your win. Here’s to four more years of making renewable energy part of our broader energy mix!

Lead image: President Obama via Shutterstock

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I'm CEO of Recurrent Energy, a leading developer of solar projects for utilities and large energy customers. Recurrent Energy develops, builds, finances, and operates solar power projects--marketing clean electricity at competitive rates via Power Purchase Agreements or feed-in tariffs in North America and emerging markets worldwide. Recurrent Energy is a US subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, following the sale of the company in 2010. With a 2-Gigawatt pipeline and almost 500MW of signed projects, we're well on our way to building a fleet of clean power plants sited right where they're needed most. Prior to Recurrent Energy, I ran EI Solutions (now SunTech Energy Solutions), the solar power systems division of Energy Innovations. While at EIS, I delivered record growth and industry milestones that included the sale of the largest US corporate solar power system to Google. EIS was formed following the sale of Prevalent Power, a solar power system integration business I founded in 2001, to Energy Innovations. Before solar my background was in technology startups. I've raised (or helped to raise) over $200MM in equity financing for startups over the past decade or so. One company I co-founded, RedEnvelope.com, had an IPO in 2003. The other, Novo Media Group, was sold several years ago to Publicis, one of the world's premier marketing and media companies. I've also had my share of challenges along the way--my firsthand experience of a failed IPO registration for Novo and the collapse of a well-funded dot-com called WineShopper.com have helped to season me as an entrepreneur and a leader. Functionally, the bulk of my experience is in marketing, business development, and sales with a good dose of general management and finance gleaned from my startup adventures. During that time I've had the opportunity to work with clients like Toyota Motor Sales USA, GlaxoWellcome, MCI, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Nikon Precision, IKEA International, HGTV (Scripps) and NBC Digital Publishing. My background has been particuarly useful to me in the emerging clean energy industry where many of the business challenges are centered around market entry and initial sales traction. As an entrepreneur, I am passionate about startups and passionate about clean technology, but I have zero patience for dreamy ideas or unfocused execution. I'm a regular speaker at energy industry events and I'm now sharing more of my thinking via my weblog Clean Energy Future. I'm a graduate of UC Berkeley, a published author, private pilot and proud father of twin boys.

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