In the debate over our energy future, solar, wind and electric car companies don't speak in a single, unified voice. Tom Steyer and Hemant Taneja want to change that.
They have formed an organization, called Advanced Energy Economy, that the two hope will grow into a nationwide chamber of commerce for alternative energy companies. The organization, which they will formally announce today, already has state and regional chapters representing 700 companies.
"There is no business voice for advanced energy, and there has to be," said Steyer, founder of the Farallon Capital Management hedge fund in San Francisco. "There has to be on a local level, and there has to be on a national level."
The organization will promote the growth of American alternative energy companies and technologies at a time of intense global competition to dominate this young industry. For membership, Advanced Energy Economy will cast a wide net, including nuclear power companies as well as businesses that create energy-efficient buildings.
A crowded fieldSeveral national groups, such as Environmental Entrepreneurs and the American Sustainable Business Council, already pursue similar missions. Wind power has its own nationwide trade association, as does solar. Northern California, the nation's premier clean-tech hub, boasts business organizations such as the San Francisco Bay Area Green Chamber of Commerce.
In other words, the field is already crowded.
Steyer and Taneja say Advanced Energy Economy will try to forge alliances with many of those groups. One of them - the Clean Economy Network, a national advocacy group based in Washington - will merge with Advanced Energy Economy. Others, such as the New England Clean Energy Council, will become chapters of the new organization.
"Fragmentation is exactly the problem we're trying to solve," said Taneja, a venture capitalist who founded the New England Clean Energy Council. "There are issues that require the industry to come together in an organized fashion, and that just doesn't happen today."
Steyer and Taneja bring a degree of star power to the project.
Steyer is a noted Democratic political donor who also led the fight against a 2010 California ballot measure that would have suspended the state's milestone global warming law. Taneja is a managing director of General Catalyst Partners and a noted clean-tech investor. Together, the two men have recruited a board of directors for Advanced Energy Economy that includes former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Colorado Gov. William Ritter.
State chapter in worksGiven the current gridlock in Washington, Advanced Energy Economy will concentrate much of its initial effort on state and regional issues, pushing for policies that help the industry. The organization already has chapters representing nine states, although not yet California. (That's in the works, Steyer and Taneja said.)
Advanced Energy Economy also will become a clearinghouse for information on the costs, benefits and potential of different kinds of energy production, with data drawn from universities and think tanks. The size of government subsidies, the impacts on air quality and human health - all of those details need to be considered, Steyer and Taneja said.
"What we need is an open conversation," Steyer said. "It's important to bring all the hidden costs to the surface."
Both men will provide seed money for the organization, although they have not announced the exact amounts. The bulk of Advanced Energy Economy's funding will come from dues paid by its members.
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