A recent article on GreenBiz talks about the rapid growth of renewable energy in India and China. There are fears, perhaps rightly so, that US is missing its ride on one of the big economic waves of the 21st Century. In China, where it’s admittedly easier to just make things happen, renewables are ramping up at a rate far exceeding that of the US. Does this mean that all of those green jobs we’ve been dreaming of will be emerging in China and India rather than here?
Yes and no. As the article points out, there’s nothing stopping US companies from competing for Indian and Chinese contracts, and these buildups can be seen as a boon for the international renewable energy sector rather than for some mythically segmented industry of a particular country. Sometimes local does matter, in the production of hard-to-move components such as turbines and (most importantly) in the production of “negawatts” through utility-funded energy efficiency. China can manufacture CFLs, but they can’t switch them out.
It’s not about which country will pump enough money into its green sector to take the lead. With the exception of a few pockets there is one big renewable energy revenue pool and one big industry to serve it. The question is: “What role will the US play in the renewable energy value chain?” We’re kidding ourselves if we think that we’ll be able to reverse the flow of manufacturing from our shores, but that’s just a small piece of the picture.