The truth about 60 Minutes and the cleantech 'crash'
<p>The storied news show recently aired a controversial report. But the CEO of the Cleantech Group says if this is a 'crash,' give us more. </p>
60 Minutes aired a piece on the cleantech space on January 5. In the days that followed, I have had interesting conversations with clients about what was broadcast to 7.4 million viewers. Those discussions reinforced my belief that 60 Minutes missed the mark, and inspired me to write this blog on why cleantech is essential, massive, vibrant, and desired.
Cleantech is essential
We recently took 15 clients to China on our annual tour, and the Beijing Air Quality Index (AQI) of PM 2.5 read above 200 on multiple days. The average AQI in Los Angeles, California, through 2009 was 19. As CBS News has reported, the health and economic implications of severe pollution are significant. Kids with asthma flood hospitals. Flights are canceled. Schools are closed. Concerts are postponed. People wear masks and stay indoors.
The cause for China’s dirty air is not a mystery. The country’s coal-fired power generation, rapid industrial growth, and significant increase in vehicles all contribute to poor air quality. The costs are not trivial: The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection has estimated it will cost China $817 billion to clean its air, and $163 billion for Beijing alone to do so.
It’s just not air; let’s consider water. Only half the water sources in Chinese cities are safe to drink. Seventy percent of the groundwater in the north China plain is unfit for human contact.
While air and water quality in the US are better than in China, we too have been impacted by a changing climate. Hurricane Sandy caused $50 billion worth of damage, and Katrina caused $128 billion (in equivalent dollars); and we can’t place a value on the loss of lives. California just experienced its driest year on record.
The world needs cleantech.
Cleantech products and services are disrupting massive global industries. In 2014 alone, the United States is projected to spend about $1.3 trillion on energy. s costs of clean technology have declined, adoption is increasing rapidly. Let’s look at solar photovoltaic (PV) as an example: Since the beginning of 2011, the average price of a solar panel has declined by 60 percent. As we look further back in time, the declines are more impressive. The price of PV cells has dropped from $76.67 per watt in 1977 to 74 cents per watt in 2013. This has led to a significant increase in PV deployments. PV installations in the US have grown approximately 50 percent per year from 2011 to 2013. In 2012, renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) represented half of all new capacity in the United States. Towards the end of 2013, BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Unit 1 connected to the grid.
Homeowners want solar on their roofs. Drivers want Tesla cars.