One of the things that clean technology boosters bemoan in our region is the price of energy. That is, “sadly,” it’s pretty low, thanks in large part to our abundant, cheap hydropower supply. This “burden” is often cited as a barrier to adoption of clean technologies here in Washington. Which is totally true. And I don’t care.
As I mentioned, one of the big opportunities to grow our regional economy is to increase our sales of energy efficiency goods and services to the rest of the world. And we already have great companies here that are working on all aspects of the cluster, from hardware to software to professional expertise. Those products have developed here because (among other reasons):
1) They are innovations within existing industries (like energy efficiency software from Microsoft or green building techniques at large architecture and construction/engineering firms);
2) We have a significant population of environmentally conscious early adopters who aren’t driven as much by cost concerns; and
3) We have an innovative business culture that is reacting to worldwide trends and market opportunities.
However, we do have low energy rates, and so the local/regional market may not be sufficient to grow the next “clean tech Microsoft”. That’s where the market that is the rest of the world comes in, and particularly those markets that have…wait for it…high electricity rates! As we’re developing our “metropolitan business plan” for the energy efficiency industry cluster, those regions around the country and the world with pricey energy will go into the section marked “potential customers.” And that, my friends, is how you have a vibrant clean technology cluster in a region with low energy rates.