Maine has dropped three spots on the U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, a national report that ranks states and metropolitan areas on their support of the “cleantech” sector.

Cleantech is a loose term, but is generally understood to encompass any type of technology related to renewable energy generation, increasing energy efficiency or resource management.

Maine ranked 29th in the 2014 Clean Tech Leadership Index, a drop from its 26th place in 2013, according to the report, which is created annually by Clean Edge, a Portland, Oregon-based research and consulting firm.

The index ranks states on more than 70 industry indicators in three areas: technology, policy and capital. The underlying indicators include the pervasiveness of smart meters, diversity of renewable energy sources, the number of hybrid electric vehicles per capita, the amount of venture capital invested in cleantech businesses and the state’s implementation of policies that benefit the cleantech sector.

Maine had the worst ranking in New England. Among its neighbors, Massachusetts ranked second behind only California, Vermont ranked ninth, Connecticut ranked 10th, Rhode Island ranked 13th and New Hampshire ranked 16th.

Maine’s steepest drop was in the policy category, where its national ranking went from 31st to 36th, according to Bryce Yonker, Clean Edge’s director of business development.

That drop – and by extension the state’s total drop in ranking – is more a function of other states increasing their support and implementation of cleantech policies, rather than Maine reversing its course, according to Yonker.

“It’s more an acceleration of other places,” he said. “Yes, (Maine’s ranking) did drop a couple, but it wasn’t like there was some landslide policy change.”

The one area where Maine did very well is in clean energy generation as a percent of the total energy generation. In that metric, Maine ranks fifth with 60.7 percent of electricity generated in 2013 coming from hydro, biomass, wind or solar, according to Yonkers. Maine ranked first in the country for the percent of electricity generated from biomass, accounting for 25 percent of the renewable generation in 2013.

Maine doesn’t do well in “clean transportation,” Yonkers said. It ranks 22nd in the number of fully electric cars per capita in the state, he said. He said Clean Edge’s research shows about 500 electric cars in Maine. The state scores 32nd in the number of electric vehicle charging stations per capita, with 20.

The index helps assess Maine’s cleantech marketplace and how it stacks up against other states, according to Jeff Marks, executive director of the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine, known as E2Tech. His takeaway from the 2014 report is that “Maine needs to increase its public and private sector support for renewable energy and environmental initiatives and investment.”

Despite the drop in ranking, Maine’s cleantech sector is doing relatively well and should build upon that momentum, Marks said.

“While the index shows a slight drop in cleantech leadership, we’re actually doing pretty well in employment and overall economic impact in the state,” Marks said. “The renewable energy sector is quite strong in the state and we rank high in percentage of renewable energy generation as part of our overall energy mix. Despite some setbacks, offshore and land-based wind, woody biomass, and hydropower – as well as advanced materials and environmental services – hold a lot of potential and optimism.”

In response to an E2Tech survey conducted last year, almost half of the cleantech companies in Maine responded that they grew more than 10 percent in 2012, and 60 percent plan to expand in the next three years, Marks said.

The challenges include access to financial and human capital, as well as “variable approaches to public policy.”

“With the right public and private reinforcement and partnerships, Maine can remain a leader in creating cleantech jobs and attracting funding and private investment. This report is but one snapshot and does not provide an accurate indicator of future or even past success,” Marks said.

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