Alternative energy and the companies that support it are here to stay, despite the changing politics in the other Washington. That was the sentiment as the state’s CleanTech Alliance held its annual meeting in Seattle.
The group, which lobbies on behalf of the sector, is getting ready to celebrate ten years since its founding. And over the last six years, the organization has grown from just 35 members in 2010.
“And now we’re just about 300. So almost 10-time factor of growth,” said CleanTech Alliance President and CEO Tom Ranken.
He says clean technology companies now employ more than 87,000 people in Washington.
The outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election could make expansion of that growth harder. Kirt Montague is the CEO of the Tukwila-based natural gas company Plum Energy and a past chairman of Washington’s CleanTech Alliance. Speaking during a panel discussion at the meeting, he said people should not be surprised to see more oil and gas drilling or even a revival of the Keystone XL Pipeline, because of Donald Trump’s election.
“I think it’s a significant event. I think it’s going to affect our industry, at least the perception today is that it’s going to be a benefit to the oil and gas sector, particularly the coal sector as well,” Montague said. “And in many respects it may not help the renewable energy sector – solar projects, wind projects, others that have relied heavily on subsidies to compete.”
He says on Wednesday morning, his email was full of euphoric newsletters from the oil and gas industries. He expects alternative energy will continue to be an important part of the mix, but industry groups will have to work harder to get subsidies and have their voices heard in the other Washington.
Ranken isn’t too worried. He says the most recent growth here has been helped by two rounds of subsidies worth $76 million from the state’s Clean Energy Fund.
“And we have a governor and a legislature that have been extremely supportive, in fact there’s some evidence that that might even increase in the coming months in the next session. So relatively speaking, state policy is more important in this field than it is in other areas.”
Still, he agrees that members of industry groups like the CleanTech Alliance will need to make their voices more loudly heard over the next four years, especially in the other Washington. And they’ll likely be looking for more support from businesses in the form of public-private partnerships.