Clean tech: NH’s infrastructure solution?
You’ve undoubtedly heard a great deal about infrastructure upgrades as of late. As Governor Sununu and the Legislature consider funding levels for state infrastructure improvements, there is an important item to discuss: What technologies should be considered in these upgrades?
In the coming years, it will be incredibly important to incorporate clean tech specific infrastructure into designs and projects. Many in the state share this sentiment.
Granite Staters are more concerned than ever about having their tax dollars spent on wise infrastructure built to last and operate efficiently and without harm to the environment. Luckily, many areas of infrastructure concerns, including energy, transportation and water resource protection, have undergone major technological advancements.
A recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers highlights the rough shape our state’s infrastructure is in, with energy coming in at a C+. While not as poor a rating as other categories, like ports and wastewater, we should not view a C+ as a positive benchmark.
Gone are the days when the cheapest project meant an automatic winner. Citizens now desire long-term benefits and greater data to review these investments. They have witnessed the negative impacts of increased operating costs over time by choosing the cheapest route. They do not want the state to operate in that manner anymore.
Take energy for example. We now understand that electric rates continually go up over time and are out of our control. We can now anticipate this reality and choose more efficient technologies to start with that help avoid those costs.
For example, rather than select traditional halogen fixtures for street lighting repairs, install new, clean tech, low-energy LED fixtures. These are the new, innovative clean technologies we must look to first in order to achieve reduced long-term costs.
When considering other infrastructure categories, clean tech products are available. Road repairs, for example, can utilize advanced materials for road surfaces that can make them more pervious or durable. When considering building a new school, investigate clean tech building materials and energy generation first in order to avoid traditional, less efficient options. Even if it is determined that a particular technology is not ready to be incorporated today, apply what structural items you can to make it easier to incorporate in the future.
Clean tech deployment also pertains to fiscal considerations. By utilizing public/private partnerships, the state will witness greater leverage of appropriated funds and a larger investment into our needs. There is ever-growing clean tech investment from aggressive private capital firms to conservative pension funds. Many now look at these projects as wise investments with healthy returns. It is prudent not to neglect how the state can leverage these resources to achieve greater investments and better returns.
Not to be overlooked, clean tech also attracts new business. A recently released report by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Information Technology Industry Council discusses greater business growth in states with more aggressive policies toward clean tech initiatives. The report underscores that businesses are seeking locations that help allow them to control their own energy future.
As the governor considers our state’s infrastructure repairs, he will continue hearing from a growing number of citizens looking for greater efficiency in those projects. They will demand he first look to clean tech solutions that bring about greater efficiencies and attract private investment, all while creating a stronger footing to bring new businesses and jobs to our State.
Michael Behrmann is director of the NH Clean Tech Council.