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Study Links Clean Technology to Potent Job Growth

A new study says that investments clean technology can yield significant numbers of well-paid jobs.

According to Creating the California Cleantech Cluster, produced by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Fund, venture capital (VC) interest in environmentally friendly technologies has surged in the last several years as advances in technologies have lowered costs, bringing many clean-tech products into the economic mainstream.

As investor and consumer interest in clean-tech grows, says the study, California stands to benefit because the state's thriving technology base, abundant business talent, access to capital and proactive environmental policies make it a natural home for new businesses in this industry. Last year, the state received $339 million in VC clean-tech investment, more than any other U.S. state or region and 29 percent of the North American total.

If California creates a clean-tech industry cluster -- much like Silicon Valley is a hi-tech cluster -- it could create between 52,000 and 114,000 jobs and attract $11 billion to $25 billion in annual revenue, says NRDC. Most of the jobs would be high-paying, skilled positions.

"The findings add strength to our belief that environmental policy can be an economic stimulus," said Bob Epstein, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2, an organization of business people and professionals who believe that a strong economy and healthy environment go hand-in-hand.

The reports authors surveyed 25 private equity investors who are active in the clean-technology field. The overwhelming majority -- 91 percent -- said that pro-environment public policies can stimulate new business and investment in the state. And 79 percent said that current California public policies (regulations, programs and incentives) are a prominent factor in their investment decisions.

The report noted that California is not the only state vying for a piece of the clean-tech industry. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Texas, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania are all aggressively pursuing clean-tech investors and entrepreneurs. Europe and Japan also are successfully building clean-tech clusters. The report says that if California is going to keep its competitive edge, then it will have to develop focused, well-coordinated public policies to continue to grow the sector.

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