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Business might not be one of the first groups that come to mind when you join the words “clean energy” with “advocate.”

Think again.

Yesterday, 32 executives from local chambers of commerce and their member companies traveled to Washington to meet with lawmakers about clean energy and regional business competitiveness.

Why are Chambers of Commerce advocating for clean energy? Because they’re in the business of creating a better environment for their members: businesses.

As Diane Doucette, Executive Director of Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, the Surdna Foundation grantee that organized the Washington trip, said: “Local chambers understand the strategic role that innovation and clean energy play in local economic development.”    

Her group of local chambers of commerce is helping businesses and communities address a number of energy-related challenges from see-sawing energy prices, global competition in manufacturing and technology development, and crumbling electric grids.

Moving businesses toward greater energy efficiency has added benefits that the chambers recognize such as local jobs that can’t be outsourced, increased property values, and lower energy bills. And, in a growing number of communities, local chambers understand that clean energy is a critical part of a broader movement toward greater sustainability. For these and other chambers, sustainability isn’t just something you do, it’s how you live.    

A recent publication by the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy – Local Chambers as Change Agents: Creating Economic Vitality Through Advanced Energy and Innovation – found that while progress on the clean energy front is slower than hoped on the national level, local chambers are attracting investment, supporting business growth and innovation and helping to diversify their regional economies around clean energy and energy efficiency.

The report includes case studies from states with strong manufacturing bases, where local chambers are working with businesses to identify clean energy initiatives. In Flint, Michigan, for example, the local chamber is helping to increase demand for electric vehicles, supporting local manufacturers that produce EV engines. And in Asheville, North Carolina, the local chamber’s new network to coordinate shipping routes among manufacturers is helping companies realize significant fuel savings.

The report finds that:

 In small rural towns and buzzing metropolitan cities, businesses are saving money on utility bills and increasing their competitiveness by using homegrown clean energy innovations. From smarter electric grids and more efficient buildings to cleaner cars and technologies to harness renewable energy, U.S. businesses are seizing an unprecedented opportunity to champion the advanced clean energy technologies of the future.

While the report draws lessons from 10 cities, Diane Doucette and her members realized that economic benefits of clean energy extend far beyond our individual towns and cities. Global clean energy markets are on a fast growth path and will be supplied by innovators in countries that prioritize the development of clean energy technologies. So, as the Change Agents report says, “We can either enhance our global technological leadership in innovation and clean energy – increasing U.S. business competitiveness and strengthening our economy with new jobs in manufacturing, construction, and clean-tech development – or we can cede our technological leadership and global clean energy markets to others.”



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