February 10, 2017

Massachusetts Ranked Second in 2016 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index

Emily Izzo, Project Administrator for IIS

Full disclosure: The author is a baseball fan. Prepare for sports metaphors.

On competition, and the things we do well:

This month, Clean Edge, Inc. released the annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, a 100-point scoring system which tracks state-by-state and city-by-city data on cleantech capital, policy, technology development and deployment, highlighting national leaders and identifying what each is doing right. Massachusetts has duked it out for a top spot in each of the Index’s seven years now, and in 2016 we are proud to announce once again that we are the best in the East.

That’s right: for the fourth year in a row, MA is second only to California. Now, I’m a competitive woman who’s always got her eye on the prize but, to do justice to the Commonwealth, #2 out of 50 ain’t at all bad! We lead the country in energy storage capacity. Of the fifty biggest metro areas in the US, Boston holds the #3 spot for green buildings. The state’s clean energy technology deployment has leapt from the 18th spot in 2010 to 6th place today, and we’re the runaway leader in clean energy venture capital per capita. These are only a handful of encouraging data points from Clean Edge’s wide collection of metrics, and the Bay State has plenty more triumphs to its name as well – but it seems we just can’t overtake the behemoth on the Pacific.

So now I ask myself: Why do these rankings actually matter for us Massachusetts-ians?

Interstate rivalries can be great: communities across the US are constantly in competition with each other – be it for baseball championships, tourist attractions, university students or, yes, even for sustainability accolades. Of course it feels satisfying to be on the winning team, but for me the most important takeaway from this annual index is the opportunity it affords us to confront our own weaknesses – and to interpret “weakness” as “room for improvement.” The numbers can speak for themselves, and I do encourage you to read the full Clean Edge report, but I’ve never been a numbers person myself; I’d rather speak candidly of the Massachusetts I know personally.

The way I see it, we’ve almost always been a bit of an underdog (see above, re: baseball championships) but, oddly, I think that’s why a lot of us love living here. There’s a determination of spirit in Mass. that just won’t break and which, I think, somewhat relishes the underdog status. The type of people who choose our stifling, muggy summers, who withstood championship droughts to make grown men cry, and who gamely dug out their cars for months on end (Winter is coming…) just aren’t the type to stay down for very long – they’re the type who always have a little something to prove, and who genuinely enjoy having someone to chase.

In this seventh year of the Clean Edge Leadership Index, we are forced to confront the fact that California is starting to look unbeatable but, to be frank, I kind of like having them up there. True innovation doesn’t tend to come from leaders; rather, it’s what happens when the people below develop the will to overcome inertia and change that status quo. We can see ourselves leapfrogging with California throughout the years but this whole contest is not just an exercise, it’s a learning experience. States running clean energy programs consult, borrow, and are inspired by one another all the time, and every award-winning program stands on the backs of its predecessors. MassCEC is proud to run at the front of the pack, but happy to share the benefits of our experience with sister agencies across the country and partners like Clean Edge.

At the end of the day, we’re all driven by the same need to protect the future of our country and our environment for generations to come. By studying the strengths of one another through common reporting and metrics, each state has grown smarter, more creative, more nimble, and stronger as we confront our shared energy and climate challenges together. On that, I am proud to be on the same team as a leadoff hitter like California – but we certainly won’t stop nipping at their heels!