Efficiency and the jobs argument

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Courtesy of Energy Efficiency Markets LLC

How will the recent bad economic news affect energy efficiency efforts? Will state lawmakers retreat from the many financial commitments made over the last year?

It is too soon to know the answer. But one thing is for sure, the industry may have to shift its marketing message. Consumers and politicians typically are keener on protecting the environment in good times than they are in bad.

The fact that efficiency programs create jobs seems to strike a cord. If you are looking for facts and figures to bolster arguments about efficiency’s job-creation ability, check out the 300-plus page report, “Green Jobs: Towards decent work in a sustainable world.”

Released this month by the Worldwatch Institute, the report says that the global market for environmental products and services is likely double from $1,370 billion per year to $2,740 billion by 2020. Half of this market is in energy efficiency.

US clean technologies are already the third largest sector for venture capital – bested only by information and biotechnology.

Further, the report cites data from the Apollo Alliance New Energy for America that says 827,260 jobs could be created in the United States through investment in high-performance buildings alone -- both retrofitting and new green construction.

The numbers are big and striking. However, policymakers should be warned that not everyone will share in the bounty. There will be winners and losers. The losers will include companies that are slow to clean up their technologies, heavily polluting industries, and regions where livelihoods depend on those older industries, according to the report.

“The policy challenge is not to let these distinctions become permanent features. The transition to sustainability and greener employment needs to be well planned,” says the report.

Energy efficiency offers a unique job building advantage for communities. Many of the jobs the efficiency industry creates are local. Thus, it will be city and state policymakers that need to do the planning to ensure job-creation in their communities. This may be a good report to pass along to city councilors and state legislators as they vie to keep their local economies upright.

To view the report go to: http://www.ilo.org/integration/greenjobs/index.htm.

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