The renewable energy industry is making an election-season push to improve its image after a year in which several high-profile bankruptcies dominated press coverage.
A new informational website called energyfactcheck.org and launched Wednesday by one of the industry's top Washington boosters will target reporters, political decision-makers, and anyone else willing to listen to the pitch that the industry is viable, despite some failures.
"The perception, because of the lack of fact-based information out there, is that we're some fleeting, fly-by-night, government-dependent entity," said Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, a retired Navy officer and chief executive of the American Council on Renewable Energy, the nonprofit that is maintaining the new website. "The fact is that we have real companies making real profits and making investments in renewable energy for all the right reasons."
The council, which is funded by renewable energy companies and investors, announced the website Wednesday at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum it hosted here amid simmering frustration about how the some in the media and politics have portrayed renewable energy following the bankruptcy last year of Solyndra LLC. and other U.S. solar-energy firms.
Nicholas d'Arbeloff, president of regional development for Advanced Energy Economy, a business group, during one panel discussion bemoaned a "cacophony of crap, pardon my French, that is being thrown around at advanced energy and clean energy in the press today."
Much of that press coverage has focused on attacks from Republicans, who have seized on the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the recipient of a $535 million federal loan guarantee, as part of attacks on President Barack Obama's economic policies. On Tuesday House Republicans held two separate hearings to criticize the Obama administration for clean-energy subsidies the lawmakers said failed to create promised jobs and boosted the bottom line for companies that didn't need taxpayer funds. The administration has defended the programs, countering that they are helping to keep the U.S. as a leader in clean-energy investment.
"The Republicans have not given us much hope that an all of the above energy policy is one that promotes renewables," said Keith Martin, an attorney with Chadbourne & Park who represents renewable energy firms, at the forum in New York.
The investors, lawyers, and renewable energy executives at the event insisted that the industry was an attractive bet. Jeff Holzschuh, chairman of the global power and utility group at Morgan Stanley (MS), said Tuesday that his firm was raising more dollars than expected for a new fund that targeted sustainable energy investments. "We as a firm and other of our competitors still have tremendous demand from investors to find places to invest dollars in this space."
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