'Advanced Energy' Wants to Ramp Up Most Everything But Coal

A year-old energy-industry organization released a report today that describes a global clean-energy market of more than $1 trillion and how businesses in the United States can get a bigger piece of it. 

Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) has set out with lofty goals and a staff of 20 to help U.S. businesses sort through the expanding opportunities they face today in generating, selling and buying electricity and fuel. The San Francisco-based group has opened chapters in seven states and one in New England, as it tries to rewire professional networks to make it easier for businesses to educate themselves, develop policy and share data. Think of it as a Chamber of Commerce for energy sources cleaner than coal or oil. 

Unlike industry- or technology-specific groups, such as the American Wind Energy Association or the Solar Industry Association, AEE is trying to identify and solve challenges that businesses face in understanding and deploying low- or no-carbon energy technologies. It’s trying to build a national network of energy-business forums and to help potential partners identify each other. 

AEE's regional affiliates have more than 600 members. The company plans to expand its national membership in its second year. It currently has fewer than 100 national members, among them Verizon Communications, Natel Energy, Austin Water and Recurrent Energy. 

"We take our lead from the CEOs of the companies that join us," Graham Richard, AEE’s chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview. "This will be data driven and nonpartisan." 

The report, conducted by Pike Research, shows that the so-called advanced-energy market in 2011 was $1.1 trillion. The largest segment was electricity generation, where global advanced energies accounted for $549.3 billion in 2011 revenue. That includes $257 in hydropower, $113.2 billion in solar, and $67.1 billion in wind. 

The advanced-energy market is only expected to grow, AEE says. In 2012, the U.S. market alone is estimated to have risen almost 20 percent, to $157 billion from $132 billion, according to the report.

AEE, a nonprofit, was founded Nov. 7, 2011, by Tom Steyer, the founder and senior managing member of Farallon Capital Management, and Hemant Tenaja, managing director of General Catalyst Partners. Its board of directors includes such U.S. energy notables as Jim Rogers, chairman, president and CEO of Duke Energy, Samir Kaul, founding general partner at Khosla Ventures, and Michael Ahearn, chairman of FirstSolar. 

AEE is also an end-run around the bitter partisanship that dominates energy and climate debates in Washington. The group defines “advanced energy,” a novel phrase, as "the best available commercial technologies for meeting energy needs today and tomorrow." They divide it into seven market segments -- transportation, buildings, industry, fuel production, fuel delivery, electricity generation and electricity generation and management. Those seven categories break down into 41 sub-segments that include everything from vehicle design to nuclear power. Just not coal or oil.

Let others squabble over how clean, say, nuclear is vs. wind, Richard said. The group is “less worried about exactly what that definition is" than about helping companies switch to clean and affordable energy. 

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