California Cities Top U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index

By John Addison

John Addison is the author of two books - Save Gas, Save the Planet that details the future of transportation and Revenue Rocket about technology partner strategy. CNET, Clean Fleet Report, and Meeting of the Minds have published over 300 of his articles. Prior to being a writer and speaker, he was in partner and sales management for technology companies such as Sun Microsystems. Follow John on Twitter @soaringcities.

San Francisco ranks #1 in the U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, San Jose #2, San Diego #4 and Los Angeles #6. The rankings of 50 U.S. states and 50 metro areas are based on more than 100 indicators of advanced transportation, clean energy, green buildings, clean tech innovation, policy, and capital. For 2015, the top 10 U.S. cities:

  1. San Francisco, CA
  2. San Jose, CA
  3. Portland, OR
  4. San Diego, CA
  5. Washington, DC
  6. Los Angeles, CA
  7. Seattle, WA
  8. Boston, MA
  9. Austin, TX
  10. Chicago, IL

In this article, I want to supplement the comprehensive CleanEdge report with details about California’s four leading cities.

San Francisco and San Jose

Living in San Francisco, I can see why it ranks number one. Only 7.5 miles wide, you can walk anywhere in two hours, or bike anywhere in a few minutes. Bus and rail service is frequent. Most buildings and homes are energy efficient; some are zero net energy. Thirty percent of the city’s energy is from renewables. SF has a published goal of meeting all needs with renewable energy that includes solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and bioenergy. San Jose also meets 30 percent of its energy needs with renewables.

Clean tech innovation from San Francisco through Silicon Valley to San Jose is done with intelligence rather than the brute force of massive power plants. The San Jose area is a hub of innovation including the headquarters of Google, Apple, Cisco, Tesla, and other technology leaders that are transforming energy, transportation, and the internet of things (IoT). Using energy management software, sensors, controllers, IoT, big data and analytics, natural daylight is maximized as electric lights are minimized, heat pumps and space cooling trumps power hungry HVAC. Smart apps guide people through walking, transit, and ridesharing; Uber and Lyft are headquartered in San Francisco.

Every major auto maker in the world has nearby research centers. Electric cars are adopted faster here, charge stations are easy to find, self-driving vehicles from Google and others are tested.

Being built in the heart of San Francisco is the new Transbay Terminal that connects rail, bus, and other transportation. Transbay, surrounded by soaring high-rises, has ambitions to rival New York’s Grand Central Station. A growing part of the population lives car-free, subscribing to transit and ridesharing services instead.

San Francisco with 782 LEED buildings is second only to Washington, DC.

San Francisco to San Jose also lead in financial innovation. Clean tech innovators secure billions in venture capital in California, four times more than #2 clean tech venture state Texas. Homeowners and building managers can secure efficiency and solar power with power purchase agreements, rather than big capital expenditures.

San Diego and Los Angeles

The two Southern California cities of San Diego and Los Angeles also soar in national rankings.

Jeffrey Martin, CEO of San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), the utility that serves 3.4 million people in the San Diego area, stated, “We will have more change in the next ten years than the last one hundred years for the utility industry.” By year end, SDG&E will provide 33 percent of electricity from wind and solar; 67 percent from natural gas. Over 50,000 serviced homes have solar power, integrated with the SDG&E smart grid. The utility has major ambitions for grid storage; including a vehicle-to-grid pilot. Multiple microgrids operate within its service area, including one that meets most energy needs of UCSD, a university with 30,000 students.

Although most of San Diego County is quite car-centric, thriving downtown neighborhoods have high walk scores. The City of San Diego leads with over 300 electric cars where a Car2Go member can log-on, drive a shared car one-way to a destination, and then log-off and walk away.

In the Los Angeles area, serving 14 million people, Southern California Edison (SCE) is meeting a growing demand for electricity even as it shuts down two large nuclear power plants. LA is 30 percent powered by renewables. SCE is deploying multiple forms of large scale electricity storage with these contracts: 100 MW of large-scale lithium battery storage, 85 MW of lithium battery storage, Advanced Microgrid Solutions 50 MW, and 26 MW of thermal storage. Los Angeles is becoming a world leader in energy storage, renewables, efficient buildings, and intelligent energy management.

Although the greater LA area has the reputation of suburban sprawl and gridlocked freeways, I have had good luck taking Amtrak from SF to LA and then getting around on Metro light-rail and buses, and Metrolink commuter rail. More people are now living in walkable neighborhoods. The LA basin has more hybrid car drivers than any other metro area in the nation and closely follows SF and San Jose in EV drivers.

California is the Nation’s Leading Clean Tech State

In addition to having four top-ranked cities, as a state California ranks #1 in the U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index with a leadership score of 94 compared to #2 Massachusetts with a 79 score. California excels in many areas including renewable energy, energy storage, zero net energy homes, efficient buildings, smart mobility, hybrid and electric vehicles, clean tech innovation, and a carbon market that encourages intelligent and efficient everything. For 2015, the top 10 states are:

  1. California
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Oregon
  4. Colorado
  5. New York
  6. Vermont
  7. Connecticut
  8. Illinois
  9. Washington
  10. Hawaii

California’s carbon market has accelerated clean tech innovation. Carbon emissions cost around eleven dollars a ton, encouraging the transition to efficiency, renewables, and smart transportation. Some of the collected billions in carbon trading funds early adoption.

California leads the nation with almost one million vehicles that use electric motors and advanced batteries: hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles. These vehicles are increasingly shared, rather than owned, as California leads in innovative car and ride sharing with services from Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, Car2Go, Hertz, Enterprise, and many others.

The state provides incentives for electric rail, bus, and cars. Four years ago, when I purchased a Nissan Leaf electric car, the state funded $5,000 of the cost. It will still fund up to $2,500 for an EV.

California leads in energy intelligence and green buildings. It has 3,315 LEED buildings. California is also determined to lead the world in zero net energy (ZNE) living. By 2020, all new homes must be ZNE, producing as much energy with renewables per year, as the energy they use; by 2030, new commercial buildings must also be ZNE. Already, two thousand enjoy living in a ZNE community in Davis, 80 miles from San Francisco.

Across the nation, we see advances in energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart mobility, fuel-sipping vehicles, green buildings, and clean tech leadership. The 2015 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index ranks the clean-tech progress of all 50 states and the 50 largest U.S. metro areas. You can download the free 40-page report summary from Clean Edge.

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