California sets pace on clean energy funding, patents and adoption, while cutting pollution

California continues setting the pace in the clean economy and is reaping tangible economic and environmental benefits from doing so. These are two of the key takeaways from a report released today by Next 10, which found that clean technology is fueling the state’s economic rebound and driving its efforts to cut climate pollution.

The 2012 California Green Innovation Index compiled by Collaborative Economics is the fourth annual report that tracks the “economic impacts of policies that help reduce state carbon emissions.” California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) was among the policies cited as helping to drive the state’s economic growth.

According to the report, clean tech investments in California rose 24% between 2010 and 2011 to $3.5 billion. This represents 57% of all the venture capital (VC) funding in the country and 40% in the world. Additionally, California clean tech companies filed the most patents: 910 between 2008 and 2010. New York came in a distant second with companies filing 475.

Our solar industry did exceptionally well, attracting $1.2 billion, 62% of all U.S. VC funding in 2011. In part because of this investment, the Golden State reached a major milestone by installing 1,000 megawatts of solar capacity. Only five other countries in the world have hit this mark. Between January 1995 and January 2010, 1,503 solar businesses were founded here, an increase of 171%.

While this economic news is impressive, equally important were findings related to the environmental benefit: climate pollution fell even as the state's population was rapidly expanding. By 2009, for every dollar of gross domestic product (GDP), California was producing 28% less carbon emissions than it did in 1990. These reductions happened as the population grew by 8 million residents. Specifically, since 1990, California’s per capita GDP expanded 16% while carbon emissions per capita fell. This is particularly encouraging as California prepares to launch a carbon market that will limit overall pollution in the state to 1990 levels by 2020.

This latest report further demonstrates that environmental policies lead to economic growth. We wholeheartedly agree with Doug Henton, CEO of Collaborative Economics, who said that by “setting the market rather than chasing it,” California’s leadership is “paying off in the form of investment, innovation, and growth.”

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