Austin, Texas: A Green Capital

This may shock you as much as it did me: Austin, Texas may just be the best place in the USA for clean-tech companies. Time Magazine has a good article on how the socially regressive state is forward-looking in the corporate sustainable energy sector. Ironically, or rather appropriately, the same state that brought the world many oil barons is now bringing up a new generation of sustainable energy leaders because the business culture in Texas is used to taking risks on the energy market.

But as politically conservative as Texas tends to be, it’s kept an open mind on renewable energy, which is one reason more wind power has been installed in the state than anywhere else. And within Texas, Austin has always been an outlier: a fairly liberal college town that has managed to marry high tech with hipster culture. Now that’s paying off in the renewable-energy sector, as Austin contends with Silicon Valley as a top clean-tech hub. The city is home to dozens of green start-ups like HelioVolt, many funded by homegrown venture capitalists. Some 15,000 Austin residents are employed in the broader green economy, and the municipal utility, Austin Energy, has pledged to get 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Over the past eight years, the number of clean-tech jobs has grown more than twice as fast in the Austin metro area as it has in San Francisco. With its background in information technology, Austin is set to take the lead in one of the most exciting areas in clean tech: the marriage of new energy technology with the Internet. “Austin is already a high-tech city,” says Jose Beceiro, the director of clean energy at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. “Now it’s becoming a clean-tech city.”

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