San Antonio’s Poor Clean-tech Ranking Due to “Jockeying,” Lost Data Set

clean tech leadership index

San Antonio’s standing nationally on the clean-tech scene could be better. But for a newcomer on the scene being ranked 42 among U.S. cities is still commendable, according to Bryce Yonker, director of business development at Clean Edge.

“The places that are at the top have been at this for decades. They just have such a head-start. It’s in some ways unfair to compare those markets,” Yonker said.

Clean Edge is a research firm that ranks U.S. cities annually based on sustainability markers such as tough building codes, clean-energy investment, clean-technology innovation and investment, and the electrification of transport, among others.

Topping their list most years are cities like this year’s top five winners: San Francisco, San Jose, Portland, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

As I reported on June 11, San Antonio has made important strides since Mayor Julián Castro pledged to turn the city into the nation’s clean-tech capitol. We’ve embarked on aggressive solar-energy projects while shoring up our wind-power investments, planted more than 100 electric-vehicle charging stations around the city, ramped up building codes and weatherization efforts to improve energy efficiency. And yet our position nationally slipped, Yonker told HOE recently, from 31 to 42, based on an analysis of 2012 data.

Much of that slippage is attributable to serious perturbations inside the Midwest market, he said.

“There’s just a lot of jockeying for rank right now,” Yonker said. “It means other places expanded their clean-tech investments a little faster. That doesn’t mean that San Antonio has backed off.”

However, a portion of that 11-point slip has to do with the loss of a data set: an important one, too. The U.S. EPA’s data on green-energy pricing and purchasing. Which could explain how a city ranking tenth nationally for renewable energy sales could fall in rank in the Clean Edge index, from 20 to 30 in the sub-category of clean electricity and carbon management. (Other category placements are easier to understand: a slight rise in green building, a dip in transportation, and a one-point improvement in investment and innovation.)

Also not counted is CPS Energy’s mammoth solar deal with OCI Solar for 400 megawatts of power and a solar-component manufacturing facility. Clean Edge counts what’s been built, not the deals that have been inked. So watch for those arrays to start edging us up the list in coming years.

We also can’t expect major deals like OCI to carry us all the way. As Yonker advises: “In our indexes, we’re tracking, really, the ecosystem. It’s almost noise if a market is a runaway leader in one area, but then they don’t pursue all of the other outlets.”

Despite the clumsily handled SunCredit kerfuffle, CPS understands that. As Chris Nelder writes at greentechmedia:

On Tuesday this week, CPS hosted the second in a series of invitation-only, closed-door regional forums designed to bring utilities, regulators, and “advanced energy” businesses together for frank discussions on how to adopt new grid technologies and services more rapidly.

The Advanced Energy Executive Forum series was conceived last year by Hemant Taneja, who co-founded Advanced Energy Economy along with California billionaire hedge fund manager and clean energy activist Tom Steyer, and Dr. Richard Lester of MIT’s Industrial Performance Center. They hope that the discussions will lead to an action plan to remove the structural, financial, regulatory, and cultural obstacles that stand between us and AEE’s vision for a “prosperous world that runs on secure, clean and affordable power.” The MIT Industrial Performance Center is pitching in by studying various strategies for accelerating the adoption of low-carbon power

The San Antonio forum included executives from OGE Energy, First Solar, Silver Spring Networks, Landis+Gyr, Green Energy Corp., C3 Energy, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), in addition to attendees from the first event.

Though the Clean Edge report has been provided to utilities, research firms, and governmental bodies for years, this was the first year Clean Edge made a version of their report available to the public.