The Northeast Clean Energy Industry Steps Up

From time to time there are external events and internal milestones that converge to create new business and societal opportunities, occasionally leading to transformational strategic change. Here in the northeast US, the clean energy industry and its representative the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), may be in the midst of such a time. Is that a hyperbolic statement? No. But the final determinant of whether NECEC and its industry membership step up to the opportunity for global impact is still being written, and the answer is in part up to us and our efforts.

Over the past couple of years we’ve seen clean economy progress in parallel paths – bottom-up and top-down. Across the Northeast, there have been thousands of bottom-up actions that are having cumulative, positive impacts for a cleaner energy system and economy and a more resilient infrastructure and environment. These actions include innovation, development and deployment of solar, building efficiency, energy storage, cleaner industrial technologies, highly efficient lighting systems, smarter technologies for appliances, HVAC, systems for buildings, campuses and cities, the beginning of energy storage, offshore wind and clean transportation systems, and other solutions.

From the top-down perspective, we have seen nearly every country on the planet agree to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. And though the Trump administration announced that it was starting the process of pulling out of the accord, the decision only galvanized an increasing number of actions from US cities, states, and the private sector – We Are Still In, America’s Pledge, the US Climate Alliance, etc. These increasing commitments to greenhouse gas reductions and climate action converged in September at the Global Climate Action Summit led by California Governor Jerry Brown. Most recently, the climate challenge converged in two October events just days apart – the IPCC report with insights on near-term dire consequences for the current paths on emissions and temperature rise, and the first clean economy solutions summit, Horizon18, held last week in Boston.

Is it fair to put Horizon18 on the same scale as the IPCC report for global impact? Not yet, but Horizon18 has stepped into the incredibly important global and region-by-region need to turn climate goals and targets into the most valuable clean economy solutions and deployment partnerships. Hundreds of clean economy solutions providers, customers, financiers and innovators came together at Horizon18 to share insights and explore partnership opportunities for climate solutions action.

Over the next year, Horizon19 aims to truly become a core linchpin to turn this bottom-up and top-down challenge into a connected network that responds to local and regional needs and opportunities (resources, infrastructure, geography, economic conditions) and shares best practices and solutions while leveraging the best of global business and markets.

September 23-24, 2019 is being planned for a global climate conference and the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The planning for Horizon19 on September 18-20 is already underway to bring many of these international delegations together the week before, along with leading climate solutions providers, leading project partners, investors and innovators, all focused on accelerating the best of the global clean economy solutions market, and showcasing and connecting participants to implement the most valuable projects and partnerships that respond to the urgency of the IPCC report. 

As a founding and organizing partner in Horizon18, Horizon19 and beyond, NECEC is finally aiming to live up to our full mission. This mission has had two parts: (1) to grow the Northeast’s clean energy industry; and (2) to build and leverage a model clean energy economy in the Northeast. Since founding in late 2006, NECEC has primarily focused on the first part of this mission, but the door has opened to take on both pieces by leveraging Horizon to connect the global network of regional clean economies that will comprise a global clean economy deployment market. NECEC calls on all our member companies, funders, and partners to be a part of Horizon and to provide input to NECEC to make Horizon19 and beyond have maximum regional and global impact. 

Horizon is also an opportunity for funders to deepen their impact. The Barr Foundation is one of NECEC’s funders and collaborators who has shown the vision to support a number of organizations impacting the Northeast’s clean energy industry growth, project deployment, and transition to a clean economy. Barr made a grant to support Horizon18, and also has taken steps to convene their community of funders to step up to the scale of the global climate challenge. Barr’s President, James Canales, wrote in September 2018 about “29 Foundations Pledge Over $4 Billion to Address Climate Change,” and needing to go beyond the discussion of climate impacts and targets to acknowledge the positive economic impacts from smart approaches to climate action and climate solutions. He wrote:

“At Barr, we are committing to help accelerate innovation, adoption, and scale of climate solutions across our region. And we also aim to catalyze broader action beyond the geographic reach of our direct giving, to support people of vision, hope, and courage in all parts of the globe, who are fighting to protect the air they breathe and the places they call home.” 

How do we make sure that regions all over the world find the help they need to innovate, develop and deploy the most well-matched solutions for their economy and region and then have the opportunity to share their learning and turn the most successful projects into global impact? This is the vision of Horizon as a clean economy solutions platform, and an opportunity the Northeast should prioritize for regional success and global impact.

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Peter Rothstein

Peter is the President of NECEC.