WASHINGTON - Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he applauds companies that have quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over disagreement with the business group's climate change policy.

I think it's wonderful, Chu told reporters at a solar energy event on the National Mall.

He said other companies should quit the group because the Chamber does not fully recognize the business possibilities in taking aggressive action on climate.

I would encourage the Chamber of Commerce to realize the economic opportunity that the United States can lead in a new industrial revolution, said Chu, a steadfast supporter of alternative fuels and strong regulation of greenhouse gases.

On Monday, Apple Inc resigned from the chamber while last month three big power utilities, Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp and PNM Resources Inc, said they were leaving the chamber.

Other companies have criticized the chamber, which has pushed for public hearings to challenge the scientific evidence of man-made climate change.

The chamber has said it favors mainstream, common sense views on climate change but opposes a climate bill that the House of Representatives narrowly passed in June.

Senate Democrats unveiled their version of the bill last week that built on the House legislation, though the future of the bill is uncertain.

(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Christian Wiessner)