During the first Obama Administration, Mr. Silver led both the federal government's $50 billion clean energy investment fund and its $20 billion fund focused on electric vehicles.
Jonathan Silver | twitter.com/JMSilver_energy
Members of Congress are now back home and deep in campaign mode. Their shaking hands, kissing babies and holding debates. But, at least on the topic of energy, the debate is over. Clean energy won.
What Americans want is clear. Despite the histrionics on Capitol Hill, the disdain of the fossil fuel industry and the misplaced focus by the media on the politics of the fight, clean energy is on its way to becoming the dominant form of power generation in this country.
The trend is unmistakable. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, wind, solar, geothermal, biofuel and hydro now generate 13% of the energy we use. Nuclear adds another 19%. Almost a third of all our domestic power now comes from carbon-free and renewable sources.
Since 2007, US coal consumption, driven largely by the lower cost of natural gas, has fallen by more than 20%. New EPA regulations, based on the social, or true, cost of carbon, will further reduce the use of coal. This, too, will increase the use of renewables.
Natural gas, is, itself, becoming more expensive relative to renewables. The cost of fracked gas is already increasing as regulatory protocols are established and infrastructure and transport costs increase. Just ask New England homeowners, where natural gas prices spiked six times higher than normal last winter.
At the same time, the cost of renewables continues to fall. Solar panel costs have fallen by more than 70% in the last 5 years and panel efficiencies are increasing. New panel composites, wind turbine designs, and battery storage chemistries are reducing manufacturing costs quickly. Installation costs are also dropping.
As costs come down and concerns around energy security increase, public support for renewable energy has grown. A recent poll by Yale University found that 87% of Americans believe Congress should make developing sources of clean energy a priority and 68% think we should regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Similarly, a Gallup poll found that more than 70% of all Americans thought the US should put more emphasis on solar and wind energy production. By contrast, only 31% believe we should focus more resources on coal.
The data is even more pronounced by cohort. A League of Conservation Voters poll found that more than 80% of American youth support an aggressive climate change agenda, with its strong implications for clean energy. A National Council of La Raza poll found that 90% of Latinos favor clean energy over fossil fuel and 83% say that coal and oil are “a thing of the past”. Both groups will play a major role in energy decision-making in the future.
Consumers are speaking with their wallets. There is a 6-month backlog for the Tesla S and the Chevy Volt. With higher CAFE standards pushing manufacturers towards hybrids and EVs, today nearly every car manufacturer in the world offers some form of hybrid or electric vehicle and the US market for hybrid vehicles, the largest in the world, is doubling every 3-4 years.
Why? With no gas bills and lower maintenance, the total cost of ownership of an electric vehicle is now about 1/3 lower than the price of a traditional car. Vehicle range issues are now mostly a matter of perception. Most of the EV’s on the road today can travel more than 100 miles on a single charge, but 99% of all trips in cars are less than 70 miles and 15% are less than 1 mile.
There are also more charging stations than many realize. Recargo, a company providing data on public charging stations, covers over 20,000 locations in the US and Canada. Even Disney World has electric charging stations!
Energy conservation has also gone mainstream. Over 53 million smart meters have been deployed. Building owners increasingly use sophisticated energy management tools to cut costs. Last year, Google bought Nest, a smart home technology company, for more than $3 billion and OPower, a public company which provides consumers with energy use data has a market cap of over $700 million.
The financial markets have taken notice. In 2013, the NEX, a global index of publicly traded clean energy companies, was up almost 54% while the S&P rose 30%. Yieldcos from NRG, Pattern Energy and others have had successful IPOs. Municipal “green” bond offerings are oversubscribed and investors have put hundreds of millions of dollars into residential solar roof-top loan administrators like Renewable Funding and Renovate America.
Wall Street and Main Street have voted. They voted for a clean energy economy. Washington would do well to listen to the voters and support this important and rapidly growing sector.
Mr. Silver is one of the country’s leading investors in clean energy. He currently advises numerous investment groups, financial institutions and corporations on clean-tech opportunities and, during the Obama Administration, led both the federal government’s $50 billion clean energy investment fund and its $20 billion fund focused on electric vehicles.
The fund underwrote financing for some of the largest and most complex energy projects in the country, including the world's largest wind farm; two of the of the world's largest solar thermal power plants; the next generation of wind and solar manufacturing companies; the nation's first nuclear power plant in three decades; several large geothermal projects; and one of the country's first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants. His group also made investments in such leading electric vehicle manufacturers as Tesla and the Nissan Leaf. Several of these transactions won “deal of the year” awards from industry trade publications.
Mr. Silver has been named one of the country's top-ten "influencers" in the greentech industry.
Mr. Silver is a member of the boards of energy efficiency company, EEmax, a leading player in the tankless water heating industry and Sol Systems, a boutique energy investment bank and the largest SREC (solar renewable energy credit) aggregator in the US. He is also on the boards of American Forests, the nation’s oldest forest conservation organization and SELF, the Solar Electric Light Fund, which promotes solar electrification in developing countries.
Mr. Silver was the co-founder of Core Capital Partners, a successful venture capital firm and Managing Director, and the Chief Operating Officer, of Tiger Management, one of the country's largest and most successful hedge funds. He began his career at McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm.
Mr. Silver has also served as a senior policy advisor to four U.S. Cabinet Secretaries: Energy, Commerce, Interior and Treasury and has served on, or chaired, numerous corporate and non-profit boards.
Twitter - twitter.com/JMSilver_energy
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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