Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick reaffirmed his commitment to taxpayer investments in the clean-energy industry, despite setbacks such as the Evergreen Solar and Beacon Power bankruptcies and outrage over federal support for the failed Solyndra.
“We’re not going to win every one, but we’re not going to win any if we don’t play,” Patrick said after delivering a lunchtime speech at today’s seventh annual Conference on Clean Energy.
“I’m disappointed about Evergreen Solar and I’m disappointed about Beacon Power — although we’re not going to lose all of Beacon Power,” he added. “What we’ve won has so outweighed what we’ve lost.”
Evergreen Solar, boosted by a $58 million state financial aid package, built a massive solar panel factory in Devens, but wiped out 800-plus jobs in March and filed for bankruptcy in August. The once-promising company — a poster child of Patrick’s clean-energy agenda — was undercut by Chinese competition.
Beacon Power, the beneficiary of a $5 million state loan and millions in federal funding, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, about two months after California-based solar panel maker Solyndra was eclipsed by Chinese rivals and went belly up.
Tyngsboro-based Beacon Power, which developed technology to stabilize electricity flowing from solar and wind energy installations on the grid, has kept operating and generating revenue. But it had trouble lining up additional investments amid rising costs.
“We will use the Chapter 11 process to more rapidly restructure our overhead, pursue potential investors and definitively resolve our loan obligations,” said CEO Bill Capp, who took issue with comparisons to Solyndra. He added in a statement today that all 65 of its workers remain on the job, after agreeing to 20 percent pay cuts.
Patrick launched his administration’s clean-energy agenda four years ago with sweeping legislation aimed at improving energy efficiency, investing in renewable energy technologies and creating jobs.
The governor said he was “proud to report it’s working,” but he also appeared underwhelmed by the turnout at today’s clean energy conference — where empty seats and unmanned exhibitor tables were visible in the Westin Waterfront Hotel ballroom.
“It’s a wonder this room isn’t more crowded,” Patrick half-joked during his nine-minute speech.
Patrick Cloney, head of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, noted the state remains a leader in clean energy, but the climate around the “green” agenda has shifted from the “economic and political tailwinds” it enjoyed in 2007.
“Today we have a very different world,” Cloney said. “The political and economic landscape is against us and some people are questioning the validity and the existence of our industry.”