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NSBA: It's Not Easy Being Green

Mark Marich

A new report from the National Small Business Association (NSBA) profiles a handful of small firms developing new clean energy technologies--and outlines the challenges they face. Beyond the technological obstacles navigated by every innovative firm in the industry, as well continued uncertainty over the national and global economies, the authors argue that the profiled firms were challenged by the lack of a national energy policy.

To address that point, the report  offers several policy recommendations: 

  • Ensure that the federal government gets the best return on its research investments: The key point here according to the authors is a full reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and extension for 7 to 10 years. 
  • Implement on-bill financing programs so existing small businesses can invest in new technologies: Run by the utilities, these programs enable small businesses to gradually pay for energy efficiency upgrades and investments through their existing utility bill over one to two years. 
  • Reduce the 'soft costs' associated with deploying new technology: Permitting fees and other costs incurred by companies and installers drive up the total cost of ownership--which hampers adoption of energy efficient technologies. Streamlined permitting and other cost reductions should result in greater use. 
  • Encourage state-sponosored business incubators that provide clean energy startups with the resources and information they need to develop commercially: By providing startups with access to affordable office space, research
    and development areas, business counseling and professional services,
    governments can give local clean energy companies a boost.
  • Examine the potential for utility-financed demonstration projects: Cleantech firms are capital intensive and require a substantial up-front investment to begin scaling. More research is needed on a "symbiotic relationship between clean tech entrepreneurs and the traditional utility industry."

"Profiling Energy Industry Entrepreneurs: What Can Be Done to Foster Clean Energy Entrepreneurship in a Time of Fiscal Restraint?” was produced with support from the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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