California Consumers Driving Growth of Solar and Other Cleantech


The just-released Next 10 2014 California Green Innovation Index finds that consumer demand is driving cleantech growth in the state. Solar installations soared last year in California, which is among the most efficient, least carbon-intensive economies in the world.

Consumer demand for California’s clean technology sector products and services is expanding. That’s according to the new 2014 California Green Innovation Index, released by nonpartisan nonprofit group Next 10.

It’s not a surprise in the nation’s #1 Solar State. And the fact that California consumers are helping push forward cleantech in the state is good news for solar developers there.

Forward-looking policies in California, according to Next 10, result in technological innovation, increasing consumer demand. That leads to even more technology and further demand. “As consumers learn more about cost-effective new technologies, demand rises for products that save energy and dollars at home, on our highways, and at work,” said F. Noel Perry, businessman and founder of Next 10. “California success stories like SolarCity, Nest, and others respond by developing more advanced technologies, innovative business models, and lowering prices. Economies of scale kick in which fuel still more consumer demand.”

The Index finds that California is among the most efficient, least carbon-intensive economies in the world, with per capita greenhouse gas emissions having dropped by 17% since 1990.

California’s renewable generation grew 56% between 2002 and 2012. The state generated three times more electricity from solar in 2012 than it did in 2002, with renewable sources accounting for 15.4% of California’s total electricity generation — about three times the percentage of the U.S. as a whole. Solar installations soared last year, with 2.6 times more installed in 2013 than in 2012.

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“In 2013, California consumers offered a clear signal on solar, installing a record of more than 2,700 MW,” said Doug Henton, chairman and CEO of Collaborative Economics, which compiled the Index for Next 10. “Falling prices make renewable energy increasingly competitive with fossil fuels, and consumers are demanding more of it.”

Energy storage might be the next growth area within California’s cleantech sector. California leads the nation with the most capacity installed and the highest number of small and large battery projects, but the market remains largely untapped. Following nationwide trends, investment in this sector dropped between 2012 and 2013. However, recent investments suggest that activity in this sector may be increasing.  

California’s clean economy continues to create new jobs and business opportunities across diverse sectors.

Since 2006, investors have put more than $27 billion in venture capital and other types of investment into California cleantech companies. In 2013, $1.6 billion flowed to the state’s cleantech sector, including venture capital, public and private grants, and loans/debt. California continues to be the leader in clean technology innovation, with its cleantech companies receiving the most investment and ranking the highest in U.S. patent registrations.

The Index highlights how specific parts of California are building on opportunities in the clean economy. A few examples: 

  • The San Francisco Bay Area is #1 for clean economy jobs and patent registrations.

  • The Sacramento Area had the fastest rate of clean economy job growth in 2011-2012, at 5%.

  • The Los Angeles Area was the top region in hybrid systems patents and wind patents in 2012-2013, and the second highest overall in the state for clean technology patents.

  • The San Diego Region experienced the second-fastest growth in distributed solar installations through the California Solar Initiative (CSI) between 2012 and 2013 (+11%), and had a total of about 137 MW installed between 2007 and 2013.

  • The Inland Empire saw the highest growth in clean economy employment over the last decade (+57% to 13,700), with the fastest growth (+28%) in the energy infrastructure sector between January 2011 and 2012.
  • The San Joaquin Valley ranked second in total distributed solar installations through CSI in the state, with nearly 240 MW installed through 2013.