Clean energy firmly on one Presidential hopeful’s agenda

By Victoria Charleston, Research and Development Officer
Our Research and Development Officer Victoria was stateside last week with a ringside seat at the New Hampshire primary.

Last week I was lucky enough to spend six days in freezing cold New Hampshire working on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign – politics is a bit of a hobby of mine.

The atmosphere was fantastic and the people were interesting but some of the best bits were attending the rallies and hearing about Clinton’s vision for America.

Some ideas, to my British ears, sounded like no-brainers - affordable healthcare, sensible education costs - but one pledge that got me particularly excited was the commitment to a clean, green energy revolution.

Both Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton were effusive about the future of sustainable energy in the US and talked at length about Hillary’s plans for America to be number one in the world for sustainable energy innovation.  

To great applause she pledged to set national goals to have 500 million solar panels installed and to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below what they were in 2005 within the next decade.

She really seemed to have grasped the excitement and potential of the Paris talks last December; the clear commitment by 195 countries was a pivotal moment for green investment.

Mission Innovation was launched in Paris to support clean energy innovation and double investment in energy research and development from current levels of about $10 billion whilst governments pledged public money to the tune of at least £18.8 billion per year by 2020.  

What this means is that there is going to be a lot of investment opportunities, innovation and job growth certainty in this exciting new arena.

It was fantastic to be stood in the crowd hearing these pledges, not to mention refreshing compared to the rhetoric we hear in the UK about the cost of clean energies to hard working tax payers, and the unreliable nature of solar and wind.

This rhetoric is worryingly being backed up with action; government policies that are quietly strangling the fragile sustainable energy industry. Indeed, we have just published a report that highlights the concerns of sector experts in the wake of a raft of policy changes in this country over the last few months; changes that are harming jobs, growth and investment in the UK green energy sector.

According to Paul Simon, an Ashden Trustee and Special Adviser to select Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts on their investing strategies: “In light of the changing regulation in the UK and the negative knock-on effects on the attractiveness of investing in renewable energy, we have shifted our allocation priorities away from the UK. We are now focused on the emerging markets and North America. We expect that the supportive policy framework in the USA, and in particular the recent extension of Investment Tax Credits, will result in a significant inflow of capital into renewable energy infrastructure in the USA.”

This Presidential race is critical and will have a marked effect on international climate change policy.  Let’s hope for nominees who ‘get’ the need for sustainable energy investment – perhaps they can have a word with our Prime Minister!