Colo. clean-tech industry at crossroads
Last Updated: 15:39 March 28, 2012
BOULDER - Colorado risks losing its status as one of the homes of the clean-tech industry, and the U.S. could soon be surpassed as other nations invest in developing new technology, a panel of area industry leaders said Tuesday.
They gathered to discuss the state and future of the industry at the Boulder County Business Report's latest CEO roundtable.
The clean-tech industry in the state and the nation is approaching a crossroads, but no one seems to know which direction it will take.
American companies are better than anyone else at developing new technology, but are finding a lack of support from consumers and the government.
"The U.S. is lagging behind almost all the industrial world and much of the world in general in deploying renewable energy. The dichotomy is we still lead the world in creating these industries," said David Hiller, executive director of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a partnership of the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Gridlock in Congress and regulatory inertia is not helping the industry.
"We're lacking a sense of urgency in the U.S." said Sue Kunz, chief executive of BioVantage Resources Inc., a Golden-based company that is developing ways to use algae to turn wastewater into biofuels.
A lack of a national energy policy that promotes the development of the renewable energy industry is holding back the U.S., said Scott Franklin, CEO of Boulder-based Lighthouse Solar.
"We're up against countries like Germany, Spain, province in Canada, with a clear policy and platform and direction," Franklin said. "I feel like we're in feudal times with all the warlords fighting each other. We're falling farther and farther behind the rest of the world because we're spending time fighting about the wrong topics."
Colorado has been beset by similar problems. The decision by Xcel Energy Co. to change the rebate program for installing photovoltaic systems will shrink the industry by up to a third, Boulder-based Namaste Solar CEO Blake Jones said.
"It's a shame that Colorado has built all this infrastructure, and has a wonderful story ... and we might lose all that momentum," Jones said.
Companies that make or install photovoltaic systems have left the state or invested elsewhere if they can, said Mark Simmons, vice president and chief operating officer of ClearEnergy Inc. in Greenwood Village. Those that could not move are going out of business.
Despite the challenges, investors outside Colorado continue to think investing in Colorado companies is a good idea, and there are reasons for optimism, Kunz said.
The roundtable was hosted by Ehrhardt Keefe Steiner & Hottman PC and Holland & Hart LLP at EKS&H's office in Boulder.
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