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Former President Clinton Bullish on Smart Energy

13 Mar 2012

At the Department of Energy’s 2012 ARPA-E (Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy) Innovation Summit, former United States President Bill Clinton urged clean tech entrepreneurs and investors to keep innovating, believing smart energy and economic strength go hand in hand.

Clinton notes, “When Germany adopted its heavily subsidized leap into solar power, even I was sceptical. In Germany, the sun shines as much as it does in London. But Deutsche Bank, not Greenpeace, did a study that showed that Germany has netted 300,000 jobs [as a result of its environmental incentives]. During the same time, Sweden grew its economy and reduced its emissions. Wages rose and the country moved with confidence into the future.”
Clinton also pushed for more investment in ARPA-E and improved technology transfer from universities and government labs to the public. He also touted the military’s green efforts.

“We need even more reliance on the military. If the military wants to build 20 facilities that are carbon-neutral within a few years, why not help him build 50? If the public fleet alone of military vehicles could make electric vehicles economic, why not give them the support to do it?”

Clinton also believes technology can make the economy more efficient. “If you retrofit a home, you make it more valuable to the next buyer. It is just not true that it undermines the value of the mortgage that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold…That is one option. The other option and my favorite by far is decoupling, allowing the utilities to finance [energy efficiency measures] directly so that the contractor doesn’t have to go to a bank.”

Clinton also suggested such energy measures be primarily funded by profit-seeking private companies. “I am gratified by the fact that no matter what has happened with the uncertainty of tax incentives for solar and wind, we have had this incredible venture capital network. Even when the government’s role is uncertain, this huge venture capital industry in America continues to invest in energy innovation.”