Image by George Dearing via Flickr
With dwindling resources and tight budgets, local governments might not be the first place to look if you’re a startup pitching clean technology. The data tells a different story, however.
An April survey of almost 400 mayors in all 50 states, showed 75% of cities plan to increase cleantech deployments over the next five years.
Some of the key findings paint a vivid picture of what’s motivating the heads of city.
For starters, energy efficiency, while it may lack green glamour, is an immediate win. Cities are realizing that efficiency retrofits using better automation tools and dashboards are sending savings right to the bottom line. In other words, smarter buildings are becoming the norm for smarter companies.
• LED and other efficient lighting (76%), low-energy building technologies(68%), and solar systems to generate electricity (46%) are the top three choices among mayors as the most promising technologies for reducing energy use and carbon emissions.
On Wednesday, the Cleantech Group released its investment numbers for Q1 showing energy efficiency was the growth highlight, even as overall investments dipped more than 30% for the period.
“Our global VC numbers point to continued strength in energy efficiency, which tops the charts in both amount invested and deal count,” said CEO Sheeraz Haji, in a prepared statement.
Another key finding in the mayors’ report was related to climate change, showing one in three cities have already configured its effects into capital planning and capital improvement programs.
That should signal a strong opportunity for startups offering cleantech and renewable solutions. Corporations will be bulking up to serve local governments as they look for technology support and infrastructure upgrades. Young companies offering sustainability software, smart grid tools and of course IT-driven solutions are poised to capture significant business. To achieve that, startups need to dig deep to understand what’s really driving local governments to adopt a resilience strategy. Ironically, it seems, cities might ultimately lead much of the activity taking place around ‘adaptation.’
“While 86 percent of the companies surveyed said that investing in adaptation solutions is a viable business opportunity, less than one-third are taking action to build climate resilience in the communities where they operate.”
The Central Texas Connection
At the ATC’s CEO Summit in May, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell mentioned a number of things that puts Austin in the center of many of the reported trends. During his presentation, he mentioned Life Sciences and clean energy as two of the biggest areas of job growth in Austin.
The mayor stressed better transportation and resource management, emphasizing sustainable energy approaches and better water management. In a matter-of-fact manner, Leffingwell told more than a hundred CEOs, “those are things you have to plan for 50 years down the road.”
Stratfor’s CEO and author George Friedman, who also spoke at the conference, said attracting R&D centers for industries like biotech and life sciences would be critical for cities like Austin.
“Don’t become silicon hills — attract industries like biotech — it’s important to know who your target is,” he said.
A neighboring Austin community is showing how that’s done.
The Pflugerville Community Development Corp. has a deal in place with local electric vehicle (EV) company Community Cars Inc. If the EV company meets certain commitments for establishing its local presence, more than $100,ooo in funds will be available to the Austin company founded last year by Austin attorney Stacy Zoern.
These types of initiatives show what can be achieved when local officials have a proactive approach towards cleantech. They’re already trying to lure startups to city centers, so why not go the extra mile to ensure it’s a sustainable choice for long-term growth? That’s a win for everyone.