After several decades in laboratories and niche applications, clean energy technologies are primed for accelerated and widespread expansion in the global power sector. In the United States and around the world, solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources will represent a significant share of the new generating capacity deployed in the coming years and decades. These technologies will also be in demand as the world addresses persistent and emerging local and global environmental challenges and because clean energy will be sought after in the push to achieve greater energy security.
For all these reasons, the future of clean energy is bright. Less certain is the forecast for the United States' competitive position in this fast-growing sector. On a variety of key measures--from innovation and manufacturing to deployment and exports--the United States is struggling to maintain its lead in the global economic and technological race.
Discussions with industry and other experts across the country reveal tremendous frustration about the inability to capitalize more fully on the emerging clean energy moment. Having invented and brought to market many of the prevailing clean energy technologies, U.S. scientists and entrepreneurs now find themselves buffeted by policy uncertainty and stiff international competition.
The United States has a proud history of public-private partnerships in advancing national competitiveness in key sectors--from railroads and automobiles to telecommunications and conventional energy sources. In view of current and projected investment trends, U.S. leadership in clean energy is ripe for the same kind of cooperation between business and government.
Above all, industry and other practitioners in the clean energy field desire some degree of long-term policy certainty. These leaders are highly confident of the ability of American industry to succeed as the clean energy marketplace expands at home and around the world--provided there is consistency and consensus in policy.
Policies that encourage the deployment, innovation, manufacturing, and trade of clean energy technologies will help bolster the competitive position of American industry. In the process, these initiatives will enhance the nation's economic, environmental, and national security prospects.