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Published: Friday, 3/26/2010

Clean energy technology advocates urge more support at federal level

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE PROJECTS EDITOR

Published reports released yesterday by two different advocacy groups encouraged U.S. policymakers to beef up federal support for solar and other clean energy technologies.

Energy advocacy group Environment Ohio released what amounted to a road map for achieving the group's stated goal of 10 percent of total energy consumption in the United States coming from solar power by 2030.

Environment Ohio's report, which the group unveiled yesterday at the University of Toledo Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator, highlighted the use of photovoltaic panels, solar water heaters, solar space heating and cooling systems, and other methods of producing energy through solar power.

The report encouraged local, state, and federal governments to provide financial incentives such as tax credits and grants, establish renewable energy standards, and engage in other methods to cultivate a market for solar products.

A separate study released early yesterday by the Pew Charitable Trusts showed U.S. policies were a factor in this nation lagging behind China and other G-20 nations in clean energy growth.

Both reports underscored the relationship between public policy and advancing the market for solar and other alternative energies.

Earlier this month, a Blade investigation showed that Ohio had lost out on solar manufacturing jobs for the last decade because of a failure by state officials to attract companies with tax incentives or create a feasible market for solar panels.

Julian Boggs, an associate for Environment Ohio who presented his group's report at the UT incubator yesterday, said Ohio had "made strides recently" to enhance the state's solar industry through policy.

Mr. Boggs cited Ohio's renewable energy standard with a solar carve-out passed in 2008 and the state's grant program for property owners who install solar systems as progress. However, he said there was more work to be done.

"One huge obstacle was that it wasn't until December that the Ohio Public Utilities Commission issued its final regulations for utilities to meet the renewable standards," Mr. Boggs said.

"So the process of beginning to meet those standards and creating a solar market is moving slower than we'd like."

Mr. Boggs said a bill percolating in the General Assembly - one that would remove the tangible property tax on Ohio utility companies - and municipalities that are willing to allow residents to pay off solar improvements on their homes through property taxes could further solar growth in the state.

According to the Pew report, China invested $34.6 billion in clean energy in 2009 compared with $18.6 billion invested by the United States, knocking the nation out of the top spot in clean energy investment for the first time in five years.

Clean energy investments in the United States fell 40 percent from 2008 to 2009, and the United States ranks behind 11 other nations in "investment intensity" - or percentage of gross domestic product dedicated to clean energy.

The Pew report cites China, Brazil, Germany, and Spain as having strong clean energy policies, while the United States has no carbon policy and no national renewable energy standard.

Rebecca Bagley, president and chief executive officer for NorTech, a regional nonprofit technology-based economic development organization in Cleveland, said the federal government should follow some of the policies implemented at the state level in Ohio.

"Some of Ohio's policies are extremely relevant," Ms. Bagley said.

"For instance, unlike the U.S., Ohio has a renewable energy standard. That translates to real investment and commerce."

Ms. Bagley also cited the Ohio Third Frontier program - a bond package that funds high-tech ventures and is up for renewal by voters this year - as a tool state officials have installed to compete in the clean energy economy.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6559.



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