I often get the feeling talking with cleantech investor colleagues in California and contacts in D.C. that they don't think about Massachusetts very much. Perhaps they think of the innovation center in the universities based in the state, but they don't think very often about the state as being a leading market for such innovations.
But it is.
Over the past few years, thanks to the efforts of the Patrick Administration and earlier efforts, Massachusetts has been a quiet trend-setter in terms of how to support implementation of clean technologies, and how to restructure the electricity regulatory scheme so that utilities have an incentive to tackle real efficiency savings, not just to do token amounts of Demand-Side Management programs. And it's not just because it's "liberal Massachusetts", but more importantly because Massachusetts uses a lot of energy and doesn't have many energy resources, so there's an imperative to deal with the problems earlier rather than later. Here in Massachusetts, we've seen:
- A focal point (albeit far from being the only regional leader) for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, or "Reggie"), a first-of-its-kind regional carbon cap and trade system that's Exhibit A of how the states aren't waiting for federal leadership on this issue;
- A recently-launched S-REC program that looks like it will prompt a big wave of solar project development in the state;
- "Decoupling", which incentivizes utilities to target energy efficiency as a "first fuel";
- Rapid expansion of natural gas generation capacity;
- The nation's first major offshore wind farm;
- The development of an ocean power center in the southern part of the state;
A $2B program to roll out
residentialenergy efficiency retrofits; and
- A new effort to make the state's government buildings be made intelligent and efficient.
Among other actions.
My point isn't to launch yet another useless "which state is better?" debate, but simply to point out that that's a lot of really forward-thinking policy and market development. Yet I don't see as much attention paid to Massachusetts as is paid to, for instance, California's own similar programs, or Texas' smart grid and wind power programs. The reasons probably being a) those are much bigger states with much bigger economic impact; and b) California has highly visible public referendums and Texas has a conservative reputation at odds with simplistic views of alternative energy motivations.
Nevertheless, the re-election of Gov. Patrick in Massachusetts, while not directly a referendum on the above policies, was still a very important "win" in 2010 for the cleantech industry, since a lot of those policies were and are under implied and real threat of rollback.
It being Massachusetts, all of the above is often buried under the latest scandal or personality-driven storylines. And frankly, even living here and paying attention to it all, it's tough to see the whole of all these initiatives, when the day-to-day is full of the kind of political and semi-political machinations over very small details, and with the very bureaucratic processes, that give Massachusetts a bad name.
So when the outgoing Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Ian Bowles, gave a farewell speech recently summarizing all of this and laying out his overarching vision of policies going forward, I found it to be a fascinating read. I encourage readers to take the time to check it out. It's also available through the Massachusetts DOER website. I've been fortunate to have tapped into Ian for his thoughts and advice at times over the past few years, so it's great that he put all this down to share it with others. It's a political speech of sorts, as readers will see, but it still has some good meat to it.
I've now invested in two Massachusetts-based companies and I can see the impact these policies have in terms of making it a hospitable place for emerging cleantech businesses to get started, and to go to market. I wish a lot of other states would take similarly strategic perspectives on these issues. Especially when the federal government is so inept at providing such leadership, and thus the states are so much more important for making sure we have a robust clean economy here in the U.S.
In what's probably my last post of the year, I also wanted to thank the team at Greentech Media for being great partners this past year. They've taken a fair bit of undeserved grief from me at times this year. In fact I seriously considered not blogging at all any more given how busy things are at Black Coral Capital these days, but the team at GTM talked me back into it, and I'm glad they did. Thanks, guys, and happy new year.