What is the green economy? It promises a future more harmonious with nature, more attuned to the kind of tomorrow that is lying ahead and it also projects a sense of hopefulness and prosperity. The green economy is a rapidly growing and increasingly important sector in the overall economy generating more than a trillion dollars in revenue and employing many millions of people. It embraces such diverse industries as renewable energy production and electric energy distribution, energy efficiency and storage, organic agriculture, green transportation and green building.
Many believe that the green economy will be powered by the wind and by the sun. But fewer people are aware that to make this possible we need to profoundly transform the current electric grid to control and manage renewable energy supplies. Balancing load and demand is a quite a challenge with renewable supplies that are intermittent and depend on the weather. Without a robust ability to continuously balance energy supply and demand, wind or solar energy sources can have a profoundly negative impact on grid operations, reliability and power quality and force grid operators to make costly and inefficient adaptations to current spot conditions.
The continued global financial crisis has been hurting the green economy. The sudden and very sharp drop in the availability of capital has dried up needed new investments and funding for new many green economy projects and businesses. Because many green or clean tech businesses are in an early expanding phase of their growth, they have been especially hard hit by the current dearth of capital. Quite a number of green firms are at serious risk of failure because of this capital starvation.
The economic recovery package contains $78.6 billion in clean energy, energy efficiency, environmental and green transportation funding. There are also energy-related tax incentives. Prior to signing the bill, Obama spoke of how the United States can now convert crisis into opportunity, like making the country more energy efficient, and how he would like to see the nation’s amount of renewable energy doubled in the next three years.
Earlier this month, First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) announced that it has reduced its manufacturing cost for solar modules in the fourth quarter 2009 to 98 cents per watt, becoming the first solar cell manufacturing company to break the $1 per watt price barrier. This is a major price milestone for the solar photovoltaic manufacturing sector and represents a significant step towards achieving what is known in the industry as as grid parity, the price level where the per watt cost for solar electricity reaches the current averaged cost of electricity on the grid a goal First Solar plans to reach by 2012.