“We should pick the low hanging fruit. It always begins with efficiency. We’re much more energy efficient than we used to be but we have not made a serious attempt to get it to scale,” Clinton said in the closing keynote of the National Clean Energy Conference in Las Vegas.
In 2009, the Clinton Global Initiative partnered with Johnson Controls on a $500m retrofit of the Empire State Building in New York that will reduce energy consumption by 38%.
Despite such landmark projects, the US had yet to reap the great economic benefits from energy efficiency retrofits, said Clinton, citing a Deutsche Bank report that showed building retrofits had the highest rate of employment.
“You get 870 jobs for every $1bn spent on a coal plant [retrofits], less for every $1bn spent on a nuclear plant, about 1,900 for solar, 3,300 on wind if all the components are made here, and 8,000 on building retrofits.”
CGI had also worked on a retrofit at a large indoor shopping mall in Mumbai.
“They’re so impressed, they are expanding it across their portfolio. It’s a big deal if you realise how many people in India lost power and 400m of them don’t have power in the first place.”
The former president also said that the CGI was helping the government of Gujarat build one of the biggest solar thermal projects in the world.
Clinton said that US companies could look to overseas countries like India to help develop their solar industry.
“First, let’s go out and help the 400m people that don’t have any power at all right now and do it in a sustainable model that will create manufacturing jobs making solar panels, that will create maintenance jobs. And then if the Indians want it we could help them with the rest. They’ve got a grid they have to modernise.
“There’s a whole different set of challenges for the 600m who lost their power. The Indians are fully capable of doing it and they have money and people who can do the investment if they believe that they [can] modernise it, de-politicise it and run it in an efficient way.
“But I think the clean energy opportunity starts by saying you’ve got no back up, you’ve got an antiquated energy system.”
Maximisation of solar power potential in villages and major waste to energy projects at India’s urban rubbish tips as seen in Slumdog Millionaire would be the first areas to work in, he said.
Clinton has recently been increasingly vocal in support of President Barack Obama in the lead up to this year’s elections on issues such as healthcare and loans to clean energy companies. Clinton elaborated on the failure of Solyndra and the rapid consolidation in the solar industry on the level of subsidies offered to Chinese companies.
“Solar energy is low hanging fruit. One of the reasons that Solyndra failed and some of the other loans that the DoE issued were not successful is that after they were issued, the Chinese came in with $32bn more in subsidies for solar which bankrupted some of their own operations.