Seattle Times: Clean Energy Fund is Delivering Outside Funding, Results

Before the Clean Energy Fund, no one thought energy storage could be a Washington state economic driver. They do now.

By J. Thomas Ranken

Special to The Times


Read the article on the Seattle Times website.


The Washington State Clean Energy Fund is on a pathway to becoming an enormous success. The state’s initial $36 million investment has attracted an additional $60.5 million in outside funding and is now delivering results, expanding clean energy R&D and garnering national recognition as a model worth replicating.

The impact of that funding is dramatic:

  • Smart Grid Grants: When energy storage is cheap and abundant, renewables like wind and solar will become reliable energy sources. This has the potential to be enormously impactful on pollution, energy security, our economy (reducing energy imports), the climate and reducing poverty in developing countries. Groundbreaking Clean Energy Fund smart-grid storage projects are improving energy delivery and resiliency, reducing the need to build new energy-generation plants, and creating what might be a whole new industry in our state.

    Before the Clean Energy Fund, no one thought energy storage could be a Washington state economic driver. They do now. GTM Research recently named Washington state a top state for energy storage, which is forecast to be a $2.5 billion industry by 2023.

  • Jobs: The Clean Energy Fund created multiple centers of excellence in our state, including the Composite Recycling Technology Center (CRTC) in Port Angeles. The CRTC will divert 70 percent of the 2 million pounds of carbon-fiber waste deposited in Washington State landfills each year while accelerating our advanced manufacturing industries, attracting foreign and federal investments and creating more than 200 highly skilled job options for our workforce.
  • Revolving Loans: More than 1,200 commercial and residential energy projects are now under way as part of the Clean Energy Fund’s revolving loan program. These loans finance the use of proven building energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that lack access to capital. They are enabling energy retrofits that improve homes and workplaces while saving on energy bills.
  • Research: About $6 million has been allocated to help win additional research funds for Washington research institutions from the federal government. This not only brings additional money into the state, it is used to develop technologies that will enhance energy storage and the efficiency of helping our energy systems.

The positive results of the Clean Energy Fund should not be ignored. Unfortunately, charges have been leveled against several clean-tech entrepreneurs taking part in Clean Energy Fund programs alleging corruptions. These entrepreneurs have been investigated — and cleared of any and all allegations — twice.

In the words of the state Executive Ethics Board, the charges are “obviously unfounded or frivolous.” It is not clear to me why this story has been so visible. Maybe it is political. Maybe it is personal. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is isn’t based on any evidence of wrongdoing.

It is my — possibly naive — hope that we might now recognize the success of the Clean Energy Fund and focus on a legitimate public policy debate, ending the personal and unsubstantiated attacks on the entrepreneurs taking part.

And I am overjoyed to engage in that debate.

J. Thomas Ranken is president and CEO of CleanTech Alliance Washington, representing more than 330 clean-technology businesses and organizations: