Government investment in clean energy a plus

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A total of 285,000 acres in six states—Colorado, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah—have been designated for the solar energy initiative announced last month. The plan would also speed up the approval of new solar projects and reduce a number of up-front costs for developers.

With entrepreneurs in Colorado showing strong support for government investments in clean energy, the solar road map laid for the state should come as welcome news to them. According to Small Business Majority’s latest opinion poll, nearly three-quarters of Colorado small business owners believe government investments in clean energy and energy efficiency play an important role in stimulating the economy and creating jobs now—while just 28 percent say such investments are a waste of money.

Colorado small businesses’ steadfast commitment to a competitive, clean energy-based economy is especially apparent considering more than six in 10 agree the failure of Solyndra—a solar company that received a $535 million federal loan prior to filing for bankruptcy—doesn’t mean government should stop investing in renewable energy technologies.

Small business owners are pragmatic, and they know clean energy and energy efficiency make sense for their bottom lines. That’s why many in Colorado have already taken steps to improve energy efficiency at their businesses. In fact, 61 percent have installed energy-saving measures such as energy efficient light bulbs, appliances, windows and insulation, reduced their heating and/or air conditioning usage, or taken some other energy saving measure.

Moreover, two in five have taken the more dramatic steps of installing sources of clean energy like solar panels. Colorado Springs’ John Crandall is one of them.

As the owner of Old Town Bike Shop, which has seven full time employees, John has been doing business in the state since 1976. And he’s proud to have the first commercial facility in his city that erected a solar array, in 2008.

"Our building is 100 years old, meaning we had to put our array over the parking lot instead of the building. While that did come with considerable up-front costs, we’ve saved around $20,000 overall, thanks to rebates and tax credits for becoming energy efficient. I’d say it has absolutely paid off,” he said. “And having the array in the parking lot gave it increased visibility. It caught the eye of customers and other businesses, driving traffic to our store. We’re very glad we did it, and knowing we’d receive a city utility rebate and a federal tax credit for installing the solar panels was especially encouraging.”
A striking 82 percent of Colorado entrepreneurs understand the importance of incentives like those John was able to take advantage of, agreeing that utilities should be required to help customers reduce energy use through energy efficient appliance rebates and more. More than three-quarters would be interested themselves in using programs that provide these kinds of incentives.

This enthusiasm really isn’t that surprising: one-third of Colorado small businesses cite the rising cost of electricity and fuel as one of their top two business concerns. Entrepreneurs cite these costs as more problematic than every other business concern we asked them about.

With that in mind, it makes sense for entrepreneurs to be excited about the competitive, modern economy taking shape with the recently announced solar road map. Small firms need help becoming part of that economy, and government investments in clean energy can help ensure Coloradan entrepreneurs see long-term financial benefits that increase their prosperity and allow them to retain their status as the backbone of our economy.
 
Arensmeyer is the founder & CEO of Small Business Majority.