Los Angeles ranked fourth among U.S. cities leading clean technology growth, according to research firm Clean Edge's annual index.
Based on activity across 22 green-infused indicators, L.A. jumped from seventh place last year, still coming in behind San Francisco, San Jose and Portland, Ore. The report summary highlighted L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s push toward removing coal from the city’s “clean energy mix” by 2025 in explanation for the city’s No. 2 ranking in Clean Electricity.
Other indicators drew from four main categories: green buildings; advanced transportation, clean electricity and carbon management; and clean-tech investment, innovation and workforce. The analysis also ranked states by performance in more than 70 indicators, calling 2012 a "mixed year" for clean tech development in the U.S.
"Clean-tech deployment in the U.S. showed notable, and even historic, market momentum during the year," the report said, pointing to renewables' 49% contribution to the nation's added electric capacity last year. "This growth in clean energy occurred with little significant new federal legislation or congressional leadership. But clean-tech leadership at the state and metro level tells a different, and much better, story."
Sacramento and San Diego ranked further down on the list – sixth and seventh – to round out a strong showing for California overall, which topped the states index with a ranking of 91.7%.
Despite L.A.'s decent ranking, the nation's second-largest metro area lagged significantly behind San Francisco at the top of the list – 56.1 compared to 89.2. Adjusting for region size, Clean Edge consulted private data providers to score 50 cities on a scale of 0 to 100.
While L.A. earned a near-perfect leadership score in clean electricity and carbon management and an eighth place spot in advanced transportation, the city suffered in both green buildings and clean-tech investment.
That latter deficiency – a score of 27.3 based on performance in venture capital investments in clean tech, percentage of clean-economy jobs, clean energy patent activity and the presence of incubators for clean-energy startups – came as little surprise to some in the business of clean tech innovation.
"We urgently need a formal, written innovation strategy in Los Angeles for clean tech," said Cynthia Cannady, a principal attorney with Intellectual Property for Sustainable Energy Ventures and mentor for L.A. Cleantech Incubator. "That strategy should address practical challenges facing research in this field – funding, and the ability to afford IP protection in the U.S. and abroad."
Cannady expressed frustration with both the city's innovation infrastructure and the report itself. "I think we are patent-naive in our approach to tech in L.A. Small companies that are unable to develop patent portfolios cannot compete with larger companies," she said. "We need to avoid aspirational documents that talk about how wonderful innovation is in Los Angeles."