The great thing about visiting my brother and his family in San Jose is that there is almost always a business reason for me to be here. I used my latest trip (ending tomorrow) to catch up with the mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed, about his city's aggressive green tech agenda.
I first blogged about San Jose's strategy last November in my "Where's the greenest city of them all post?" San Jose has crafted a 10-point Green Vision spanning the next 15 years that is that you can read at this Web site link. Here are those points summarized: 1. Create 25,000 cleantech jobs. 2. Reduce per capita energy use by 50 percent. 3. Receive 100 percent of electrical power from clean renewable sources. (Note to Mayor Reed: Former Vice President Al Gore would like you to do this more quickly.) 4. Build or retrofit 50 million square feet of green buildings. 5. Divert 100 percent of waste from landfill and convert it to energy. 6. Recycle or beneficially reuse 100 percent of wastewater (100 million gallons per day). 7. Adopt general plan for sustainable development. 8. Ensure 100 percent of public fleet runs on alternative fuels. 9. Plant 100,000 new trees and replace all streetlights with zero-emission lighting. 10. Create 100 interconnected miles of trials. (San Jose is an awfully sprawling city.)
Here are some points of progress that I discussed with Mayor Reed: - San Jose is now the site of the country's largest solar testing and certification facility, run by Underwriters Laboratories. This makes San Jose an even more attractive headquarters location for solar technology companies, since it's easier for them to tweak product designs, according to Mayor Reed. Significant solar technology players that have chosen sites in San Jose include SVTC, SunPower and NanoSolar. "There are real companies here doing real things," Mayor Reed says. One black cloud looming over the San Jose solar industry, however, is the scheduled expiration later this year of incentives related to alternative energy development. Here's one recent story about the current situation.
Personal observation: Ironically, I spent the day before my interview listening to my brother attempt to negotiate a deal with a local solar installer. San Jose has announced an aggressive incentive program of its own to encourage 100,000 solar rooftops through leasing arrangements with local homeowners. No money down, just a monthly payment. The challenge is that his particular roof isn't conducive to the installation, so he faces a roof job before he can embrace this approach. So, this won't necessarily be as easy as it looks.
Other key milestones for the city of San Jose: - Its Environmental Business Cluster area won a national award for its work in helping new technology companies. - A big local employer, eBay, has opened a gold rated building under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. - Local solar company SunPower has snagged a contract with Macy's to retrofit every store in California with solar technology.
Mayor Reed credits local business leaders, such as those involved in the SolarTech consortium or the Silicon Valley Leadership Group for stepping up to the green tech challenge and inspiring real benefits that make what his administration less of a pipedream and more of a local business mantra. "Together, we are driving economics in a way that is a big plus," he says.