CLEANTECH: Renewables As Economic Catalyst

By Published On: July 11, 2008

Green energy technology is growing small and large businesses, lawmakers and business owners said during a July 10 House Committee on Small Business hearing. “Innovation has long been a catalyst for economic recovery,” said Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), committee chair. “Green technology now promises to lift us back up.” Renewable energy and energy efficiency are at the core of a green revolution that Velazquez said supported 11 million jobs across the nation in 2006. Ninety percent are in small firms, she added. “Energy is the lifeblood of the economy,” said Steve Chabot (R-OH), who endorsed green power and conservation, but also urged that the nation further develop domestic coal and nuclear energy resources. In California, the governor and a nest of venture capitalists–mostly in Silicon Valley–are betting that green energy jobs can feed the state’s economy like computer technology did in the last 30 years. However, a labor representative sees both positives and negatives. “It gives us some concerns because in the transitioning to a green economy, it could create displacement,” said Tim Rainey, executive director of the California Labor Federation’s workforce and economic development project. He said that while the state’s global warming law could create as many as 87,000 new jobs, “it’s barely a drop in the bucket in an economy of 18 million jobs.” To successfully transition, he urged the state to find new money to invest in public transit and other projects that green the economy, as well as support training programs to help workers align their skills to the emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. Nationally, wind accounted for 35 percent of the nation’s new electrical generating capacity, said Gregory Wetstone, American Wind Energy Association senior director for government. The growth is feeding demand for steel, gear boxes, and blade and turbine manufacturing and assembly plants in the U.S., according to Wetstone. For instance, he said, the U.S. once had to import wind turbine blades, but now eight companies are opening 11 blade manufacturing plants in the U.S. If wind energy provides 20 percent of the nation’s power, it would create a half million new domestic jobs, according to Wetstone. Solar energy is booming too, said James Resor, groSolar chief financial officer. The U.S. industry is likely to add 39,400 new jobs next year, he said. Employment at groSolar has increased from 25 two years ago to 100 this year, he told the committee. Home builders are going green too, said Andrea Lucke, Robert Lucke Homes vice president. She said 26 percent of home builders have moderate involvement in green building today, compared to just 10 percent two years ago. Most of the remainder are preparing to become green builders, she said, with 70 percent expecting to become moderately involved next year. Editors note: Look for our green energy jobs posting on both and in the near future.

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