California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Prius-driving, administration-suing, public servant of over 35 years, is looking to extend his state’s investments farther into cleantech. “We’re able to provide low-cost money, under federal law, to an oil company but not to clean energy,” Lockyer told the Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Forum, put on by SDForum and FountainBlue, in a keynote address. “That just doesn’t make sense,” he added.
Bureaucratic cold feet aside, Lockyer said that the state of California, with pension systems amounting to some half a trillion dollars, is very interested in investing in cleantech. Beyond his “green bond” program aimed at making government buildings carbon-neutral by 2030, the treasurer said cleantech could be the next big economic driver. “In this county we need to create a new engine of jobs every seven or eight years,” Lockyer explained. He lamented that the government, especially on the federal level, had been moving slowly, but added “There…is a big opportunity in creating jobs and investment in the cleantech area.”
While Lockyer himself cannot act as a VC, he made it very clear to the audience of entrepreneurs that he wants to be a “smart and active facilitator” of cleantech investments. Lockyer’s plan to green state buildings is just one angle; he’s convinced there’s other “low-hanging fruit” out there that can save taxpayers money and fuel the cleantech business as well.
And despite being frustrated that the current presidential administration hasn’t stepped up to the cleantech opportunity, he is hopeful that a regime change will bring positive regulatory steps. In the meantime, he remains focused on California. “I have a team trying to figure out how we could have a California carbon bank,” he said.
All Bush-bashing aside, it’s the economy that will help or hurt cleantech. But although Lockyer said he thinks investment tax credits in cleantech are a possibility, with a recession looming, the state treasurer doesn’t see them coming anytime soon — not this year, at least.