Funding New Energy Economy ‘Just Makes Sense’
By Mikel Chavers, CSG Associate Editor
Even before the federal stimulus funding hit the states, state leaders were exploring renewable energy industries and energy efficiency projects to attract desperately needed jobs. Drawing on the states’ experiences in this arena, The Council of State Governments will feature two sessions on the new energy economy and driving renewable energy at the Economic Summit of the States May 20-23 in New York City.
A lunch session, “Energizing Growth: Opportunities in the New Energy Economy,” will be held at noon Friday in the Lyceum Complex on the fifth floor, and another session, “Driving Renewable Energy,” will be held at 4 p.m. Friday in the Wilder room on the fourth floor.
Paul Kaplan, director of the Green Bank of Kentucky, Lisa Wood, executive director of the Institute for Electric Efficiency, and Tom Kenworthy, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, will headline the new energy economy session. The speakers will engage participants in a discussion about the potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency to create jobs.
“The Recovery Act has certainly catalyzed the new energy economy sector but a lot of this was coming before 2009,” said Chris Whatley, director of CSG’s Washington, D.C., office. “States themselves were investing in incentives and renewable energy standards all designed to kind of promote growth in the new energy economy sector.”
States are looking to the new energy economy—renewable energy and energy efficiency projects—because that’s where the money is, according to Kaplan. “Record amounts of federal, state and private capital are being spent on renewable energy and energy efficiency,” he said.
Funding and support for green jobs just makes sense, said Kaplan.
“Funding renewable energy and energy efficiency projects creates and retains ‘green’ jobs and saves money for the state in reduced operating, maintenance and capital costs,” Kaplan said. “This ‘green boom’ may seem like a trend, but it doesn’t appear to be losing steam, especially among the 20- and 30-year-olds. The process of becoming more sustainable and reducing our energy consumption will continue—how we do business, how we run our households, where we spend our money will continue to evolve.”
But not all states will be winners in the new energy economy, according to Whatley.
“There are certainly going to be widely dispersed opportunities in new energy but in terms of places where you end up having companies who really build up to scale and who are exporting technologies and playing a global role within the sector, that’s going to be just in a few places,” Whatley said.
“All states can potentially win by attracting and retaining green jobs. But, in reality, some states will be more successful than others in competing for and keeping new energy economy jobs,” Kaplan said.
These green jobs come with benefits attached.
“One benefit is that these green jobs can’t be easily outsourced or shipped overseas,” Kaplan said. “Another benefit is that once people in the state get new economy green jobs, as certified energy auditors for example, the state’s economy will experience an exponential ripple effect of accelerated growth in the renewable energy industry as that state creates even more green jobs in related industries.”
The second session at CSG’s Economic Summit of the States will focus on driving renewable energy through different financing mechanisms from rebates to other incentives. The presenters will be Nick Chaset, manager of regulatory affairs with Renewable Energy Funding; B. Scott Hunter, Renewable Energy Program administrator with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities; Janet Joseph, vice president for technology and strategic planning for the New York Energy Research and Development Authority; and Ann Margolis, former director for the Clean Energy States Alliance.