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Published March 17, 2008 09:41 AM

Green Energy Could Avoid Recession.

So far the industry sector that includes clean, renewable and efficient energy has been holding up well under continuing bad news from just about every other segment of the US economy. Green energy stands out as a bright spot in an otherwise cloudy economic picture.

There’s a long list of good reasons for the strength of green:

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— As of June last year 29 states had enacted renewable portfolio standards (RPS). With the laws in place, utility companies in those states have been building a continual flow of new renewable projects to meet the mandates or face fines. New projects mean the purchases of green power technologies which lead to busy supplier factories and a busy workforce to design, engineer and build those projects. Typically, the portfolio standards need to be met years in the future, so new renewable projects should continue at a steady pace for some time to come. Steady pace means solid steady business.

— Some states, too, are trying their best to build and attract green industries and research. By whatever means possible - from financially supporting innovation to subsidizing new factories to creating incentives to build new green projects - many states see green as the next wave of technological innovation, subsequent business opportunities and new employment opportunities.

— It may not seem so, listening to political critics but the Bush Administration is keenly interested in renewables and energy efficiency. But it wants to support the development and commercialization of technologies, not mandate emission cuts. Evidence of this came into this editor’s e-mail inbox in the form of a tidal wave of funding opportunity notices. The vast majority of the 39 NEW notices now posted in the Green Energy News website are from federal agencies seeking everything from innovation to outreach programs in some way to support the development of renewables and promote energy efficiency. Of the 65 total notices now posted, more than half are from federal government agencies under the long arm of the White House. Cumulatively there are hundreds of millions of dollars available within dozens of solicitations.

— When it comes to voting for the next occupant for the White House next fall, Americans should look to issues other than securing energy supplies or global warming to make their choice. The three remaining candidates are all on board to do something about the twin climate and energy crises. Whoever gets to sit in the Oval Office will be seeking funding, playing with tax schemes, and perhaps even regulating to bring more green power onto the nation’s power grids, and other measures to cut emissions and build energy security through renewables and energy efficiency.

— Large and well known corporations have placed considerable effort to build a green industry. General Electric in its ecomagination program comes to mind, as does Google now working to contribute to the green effort. But other well known companies which you’d never think would care much about green, other than cash, are jumping onto the wave.

Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated (separate from the Coca Cola Company but using the Coca Cola brand) is working with Duke Energy on three plug-in hybrid conversions for demonstration purposes. The company currently operates more than 400 hybrid vehicles.

Coca Cola itself (Coca Cola Enterprises) understands the importance of fuel efficiency as well and is building a 120-vehicle fleet of hybrid delivery vehicles.

Skeptics may say it’s just good public relations or a marketing gimmick for corporations to go green, but does it matter when the end result is to help build a vibrant green energy industry filled with jobs and opportunity?

— Almost daily it seems that another new company starts up or a previously unknown one starts making some noise about their progress it is making. Some of these companies may be stars in a few years.

Since I’m just back from the west coast of Florida, Sunovia Energy Technologies of Sarasota comes to mind. The company announced that it, and EPIR Technologies, had completed a new advanced solar cell and infrared manufacturing facility in Illinois. But the more interesting news was that EPIR’s expertise in infrared technologies may be combined with Sunovia’s cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells to create an advanced, next generation solar cell that harnesses maximum light absorption from the different light intensities and different light spectra. The absorption and conversion of a wider spectrum of light is long a goal of solar companies.

— There’s the relationship of energy efficiency and the effort to build a smart power grid now being promoted by many utility companies. The smart grid initiative is to make more efficient use of existing grids through the interaction between grid users and the utilities. The utilities hope that a smarter grid will reduce the need to build ever more new powerplants. The customers believe that by using energy more efficiently they’ll be able to save money, reduce costs. (They will, of course.) In between the utility and the customer will be technologies that will be purchased and installed, again supporting the continual growth in the green energy sector. Saving energy may be the salvation for many companies in slow times.

Things could turn sour of course. For now for the green sector looks solid, but if the credit crunch gets much worse funding may dry up for all kinds projects including new renewable facilities. Perhaps more damaging, capital needed to create, build and expand new businesses in the green sector may also disappear leaving good ideas, new technologies high and dry.

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