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Harnessing San Fransisco's Clean-Tech Future UPDATE

Harnessing San Francisco's Clean-Tech Future - A Progress Report

The following is an excerpt from Harnessing San Francisco's Clean-Tech Future - A Progress Report. To read the full report, please download the PDF file by clicking on the link to the left.

In October, 2004, Clean Edge published a report, Harnessing San Francisco's Clean-Tech Future, outlining how San Francisco could implement programs and strategies to become a municipal leader in the emerging clean-technology sector, with a focus on clean energy and transportation. The report offered a ten-point plan to help the City play a central role in pursuing clean-technology development and attract new industry and business.

In this progress report, we examine the strides the City has made, update the general state of the clean-tech sector, and highlight areas for ongoing improvement. As noted in last year's report, clean technology has become the sixth-largest venture investment category in the U.S. and Canada, behind information technology, software, biotechnology, health care, and telecommunications. It is changing the economic landscape and spawning a host of new industries, from hybrid electric vehicles and solar photovoltaics (PV) to green building and wind power. And, in so doing, it is helping address some of society's pressing environmental, political, and social challenges, from global warming, to national security, to healthier communities.

Clean technology comprises a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of limited natural resources, and reduce or eliminate pollution and toxic wastes. As a rule, clean technologies are competitive with, if not superior to, their conventional counterparts. And these technologies offer additional benefits such as contributing to energy and national security, stimulating the economy by creating new business opportunities and jobs, and improving quality of life by providing healthier workplaces and neighborhoods.

It is no coincidence that global interest in clean technology is on the rise in the midst of recent headlines, trends, and events. Record-setting fuel prices, growing concern about global warming, terrorism threats, and increasingly clogged highways make clean energy and alternative transportation technologies not only desirable, but a necessity. Clean technologies are not merely about a cleaner, healthier planet - they also represent a more vibrant, healthier economy. Much like other recent tech trends - information technology, biotechnology, and telecommunications - clean tech represents a vast potential of innovation and advancements that can spur tremendous growth of businesses and jobs.

San Francisco has demonstrated its commitment to making clean technologies a cornerstone of its development strategy - a natural outgrowth of the City's technological innovation and environmental leadership. Its tech-savvy business community, enlightened local leaders, and world-class academic institutions make the City an ideal setting for incubating and developing new environmentally friendly technologies. San Francisco, in many ways, has led by example. It is home to the one of largest alternative-fuel municipal vehicle fleets in the nation. It boasts one of the highest recycling rates for a major U.S. city, with fully two-thirds of trash being diverted from landfills. And it recently became the first city in the nation to enact environmentally friendly purchasing legislation. Voted the most sustainable city in the U.S. in 2004 by the Web site, San Francisco has become a magnet for innovative, environmentally minded citizens and businesses. In 2005, it became the first city in United States chosen to host the United Nations' World Environment Day.

San Francisco is well known for the intellectual and financial capital it brings to cutting- edge technologies, but its natural capital also uniquely positions the City to lead in clean technology. Its strong tides, high winds, constant waves, and abundant sunshine provide a ready supply of renewable resources. The City's tidal power potential alone is enormous, with more than 400 million gallons of water moving through the Golden Gate each day. According to Jared Blumenfeld, director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment, "Within 10 years, San Francisco could build enough clean tidal power to meet its daily energy needs, as well as generate surplus energy to sell" - all at prices cost-competitive with electricity from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.

Under the leadership of Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco has begun to forge a clean technology vision for its future. Clean technology is viewed by Mayor Newsom and a growing number of local leaders as both a solution to the City's energy and economic-development challenges as well as a model for partnerships that can lead to healthier communities and stronger economies around the nation. In his 2005 State of the City speech, Mayor Newsom called clean technology "one of the most significant economic opportunities for San Francisco today."

In this follow-up report, we highlight the actions San Francisco has taken in support of the ten-point plan recommended by Clean Edge in 2004, and look at additional steps the City can take to continue its pursuit of a thriving clean-tech sector.

Download the full report