Renewable Energy Can Drive Economic Growth


This week Applied Materials hosted an event at the World Economic Forum in Davos — a dinner and conversation on how renewable energy can be a key driver for economic growth. The distinguished group of panelists, speaking before a capacity crowd of almost 100 people, included: Applied Materials’ very own Chairman and CEO Mike Splinter; New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; and Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman did an excellent job moderating this fascinating exchange. And with a special appearance by Nobel Prize-winning and 2008 recipient of the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award, Muhammad Yunus, who spoke about his inspiring work bringing affordable solar power to the villages in his native Bangladesh, the night was anything but staid.

There was a broad consensus among the panelists that in order for the U.S. to usher in a low-carbon economy, a focus on renewables is a must. China, as Friedman rightly pointed out, is sprinting ahead in the clean energy race and has little intent of slowing down. Historically, the U.S. has not been accustomed to playing catch up to anyone, but that is exactly what will continue to happen if we don’t take swift action now.

With the right mix of a low-cost financing mechanism for renewable projects coupled with long-term, stable policies such as a strong national RES, the U.S. can once again become a leader in the clean energy sector. Hearing President Obama’s commitment to clean technology in his State of the Union address and how that will lead to job creation in the short and long term was certainly well-received by many of the forum’s attendees.

Hopefully that message also resonated with Senate leadership across the pond who will be grappling with passing either climate change/energy legislation this year. It would behoove our lawmakers to reflect on WEF’s ambitious theme this year — Improving the State of the World — as they begin to take up the issue again. Without a serious provision for renewable energy in whatever bill we end up with, the chance for meaningful improvement will be greatly undermined.