Move Over, IT. Here Comes ET, Energy Technology - InformationWeek
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Move Over, IT. Here Comes ET, Energy Technology

Job losses. Foreclosures. High energy costs. An unstable world economy. The bad news keeps coming. But a critically important new industry may hold the keys to economic recovery -- IF it can find sufficient investment and legislative support.

Job losses. Foreclosures. High energy costs. An unstable world economy. The bad news keeps coming. But a critically important new industry may hold the keys to economic recovery -- IF it can find sufficient investment and legislative support.The potential for real growth is in clean technologies like solar, wind, and advanced biofuels.

Telecom, media, and technology workers may still feel bullish on their career prospects, but they may be kidding themselves. Monday brought word of more job losses.

Where to look next?

"…renewable energy technologies -- what I call "E.T." -- are going to constitute the next great global industry. They will rival and probably surpass "I.T." -- information technology. The country that spawns the most E.T. companies will enjoy more economic power, strategic advantage and rising standards of living,"

writes New York Times columnist Tom Freidman.

A report published Tuesday by the Center for American Progress outlines a Green Recovery program that calls for spending $100 billion over two years to create 2 million new jobs. Those jobs would come from directing funding toward six energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies:

  • Retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency
  • Expanding mass transit and freight rail
  • Constructing "smart" electrical grid transmission systems
  • Wind power
  • Solar power
  • Advanced biofuels

But unless Congress acts quickly to extend investment tax credits for installing solar energy and production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems, the optimistic plan outlined in this report is a non-starter. As it stands, the tax credits expire on December 31. Without them, financing for many ventures is in limbo.

Friedman reports:

In the solar industry today there is a rush to finish any project that would be up and running by Dec. 31 -- when the credits expire -- and most everything beyond that is now on hold. Consider the Solana concentrated solar power plant, 70 miles southwest of Phoenix … It is the biggest proposed concentrating solar energy project ever. The farsighted local utility is ready to buy its power.

But because of the Senate's refusal to extend the solar tax credits, "we cannot get our bank financing," said Fred Morse, a senior adviser for the American operations of Abengoa Solar, which is building the project. "Without the credits, the numbers don't work." Some 2,000 construction jobs are on hold.

The fledgling energy technology industry that is so vital to the global economy is ready to go. What it needs now is a strong push.

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