The Olympian: Clean Energy Fund is Making a Difference

By Stephen Gerritson and J. Thomas Ranken

The Olympian

January 25, 2016

  • State’s $36 million capital fund uses loans and grants to foster clean energy research
  • Started in 2013 by legislators it has drawn another $60.5 million in outside investments
  • Energy storage is a growth area; the state is estimated to have 101,593 green jobs already

Read the full article on the Olympian website.

Clean energy technologies are our future, and the Clean Energy Fund shows the world that Washington state means business.

In 2013, the Washington Legislature approved a $36 million capital fund to expand clean energy research and deployment statewide. There were great hopes surrounding the impact of that initial investment. Those hopes were realized.

The initial $36 million investment attracted an additional $60.5 million in outside funding to Washington research institutions, universities, businesses and homeowners. It acted as a catalyst for creating a more efficient and cleaner energy systems as well as improving our utility infrastructure.

Washington now stands to become an important player in the global clean energy economy thanks, in part, to the ongoing support of the Legislature. What’s being accomplished?

Energy Storage: Batteries have been called the “holy grail” of energy technology. When energy storage is cheap and abundant, technologies such as wind and solar will become reliable base-load storage sources. Smart grid and energy storage projects – funded with matching grants by the Clean Energy Fund – improve energy delivery and resiliency for thousands of state residents while offsetting the need to build new energy generation plants.

These technologies have the potential to become game changers that positively impact people on a global scale. GTM Research recently named Washington a top state for energy storage, which is forecast to be a $2.5 billion industry by 2023.

Jobs: Clean Energy Fund investments helped create the Composite Recycling Technology Center (CRTC) in Port Angeles. The CRTC will divert up to 70% of the 2 million pounds of carbon fiber waste deposited in Washington landfills each year while accelerating advanced manufacturing industries, attracting foreign and federal investments. and creating highly skilled jobs for our workforce.

The American Council on Renewable Energy estimates there are 101,593 green jobs in this state. That number is increasing in each Clean Energy Fund program area. The CRTC, for example, is expected to create 200 jobs.

Saving Money: Thousands of commercial and residential energy projects are underway as part of the Clean Energy Fund revolving loan program. That pipeline is still building, bettering the lives of Washington residents by enabling energy retrofits that improve the health and comfort of their homes and workplaces while saving costs on energy bills.

As the debate surrounding climate change, clean energy and carbon policy builds, it is important to remember the real economic benefit of clean technology investments in our state. In 2015, the Legislature, recognizing the success of the initial Clean Energy Fund, authorized an additional $40 million investment. That extension will further our clean energy future and continue to spur Washington’s economy.

Stephen Gerritson is board chairman for CleanTech Alliance Washington and J. Thomas Ranken is president and CEO of the Seattle-based alliance.