How to jumpstart the renewable economy worldwide



You may have read about the Marshall Plan, which restarted the economy of Europe following World War II. With the threat of catastrophic climate change hovering over our heads, and with the economy still in tatters in many parts of the world, I\’d like to suggest a worldwide Marshall Plan-style initiative to stave off global warming, create jobs, put significant discretionary spending money into the hands of citizens, and lower energy prices—all at no net cost to the taxpayers, property owners, and renters.

Strategies would include lowering the price of clean technology by increasing demand…making energy-saving technology accessible to low- and middle-income people (including renters), and using the money saved to spur sustainable economic development. The plan, which I\’d hope would be adopted by national, regional, and local governments around the world, would have these components:
1. Effective immediately, starting with any plans proposed and not yet approved, all government or government-funded construction would be required to generate as much energy as it consumes, through clean and renewable technologies, such as solar, wind, small-scale hydro, magnetic, tidal, bacterial, and deep conservation (this is not a comprehensive list). If compromise is necessary, aim for 10 percent or less energy consumption compared with traditional nongreen buildings serving the same purpose. Technologies must be both clean and renewable, which means they cannot be based in fossil fuels, nuclear, or most types of biomass.
2. As prices come down due to increased demand and economies of scale, locally administered government programs make renewable and clear technologies available to people who can\’t afford them, but in ways that are financially self-supporting. For example, governments and utilities can join forces to set up lease-back programs, where the company that installs an alternative energy system maintains ownership, but leases the energy back to the homeowner or tenant—or the government guarantees loans that enable homeowners to purchase the systems and automatically pay back the loans out of the energy savings.
3. As the new government buildings save government agencies enormous amounts of money not paid to utility companies, those savings are earmarked to retrofit existing government buildings.
4. As the private sector repays the loans or buys the leased energy, that money becomes available to retrofit nongovernment buildings.

Large-scale implementation would bring down the price…make it affordable to every homeowner…reduce or eliminate dependence on foreign oil and uranium…reduce CO2 buildup and thus global warming. When, planet-wide, we see our rooftops as an energy (and possibly food) resource, and have programs in place to make these systems affordable to those without capital, we can eliminate oil dependence and reduce carbon emissions/global warming.

By outfitting every government building and providing means for low-income people to solarize, we can:

  • Bring prices way down and make clean renewable energy more affordable to middle-income homeowners
  • Free up capital currently spent on fossil fuels for economic development
  • Create tens of thousands of new short-term jobs
  • Reduce dependence on foreign oil
  • Reduce pressure to \”solve\” our energy shortage through environmentally disastrous initiatives like tar-sands oil, fracking, and nuclear
  • Slow or perhaps even reverse catastrophic climate change.

We constantly hear dire predictions of what will happen if we don\’t address the carbon issue right away. Yet, even modest initiatives get caught in political wrangling and die a quick death. Because this program is essentially self-funding, and uses the workings of the free market to create affordable alternatives for the less wealthy, it should be politically easier to accomplish than other proposals—perhaps even in time to prevent climate catastrophe.


Meanwhile, the groundwork for this kind of international cooperation has already been laid. As one example, Put Solar On It <>, an international initiative to get world leaders to solarize their presidential palaces, could be a natural organizing platform to expand from residences of heads of state to all government buildings. India, Chile, and the Maldives are among those who have already started solarizing their presidential palaces, and the U.S. could easily replace the solar panels that were installed on the White House all the way back in 1979 (unfortunately removed by the subsequent president). Expanding to the hundreds of thousands of other government buildings is a logical next step.

Let\’s show some initiative and gumption, put aside our cultural differences, and get this done.

Shel Horowitz at, shows you how to “reach green, socially conscious consumers with marketing that has THEM calling YOU.” He writes the Green And Profitable column and is the primary author of Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green (John Wiley & Sons, 2010).