Building clean-energy and jobs - a guide for cities

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Source: GLOBE Foundation

Today, as state and local governments seek to integrate environmental and energy policies with job creation, a first-of-its kind national study has found that only a few states and cities have policies in place to create green jobs.

Developed by a Troy, NY Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor and a team of eight graduate students from several U.S. universities, the full report - Building Clean-Energy Industries and Green Jobs, is set for release on August 1.

'Today's policy-makers are increasingly driven by a new question: how can environmental and energy policies be configured to create new businesses and generate green jobs with maximum impact and minimal expenditure?,' said David J. Hess, professor of science and technology studies at Rensselaer.

Hess' research focuses on the social and policy studies of science, technology, health, and the environment, with an emphasis on the role of civil society and social movements. His interest in localism is prompted by his earlier research on the relationships between social movements and industrial innovation.

'There are many studies of state and local government energy policy that focus on policies that drive 'demand' for energy efficiency and renewable energy products,' Hess said. 'This research report is different because it looks at the emerging suite of 'supply' policies needed to create the businesses that will provide green jobs.'

The study explores the full range of green jobs, from weatherization jobs to manufacturing to research, development, and business start-ups. It also focuses on policies that help to promote five clean-energy industries: bio-fuels, smart-grid and buildings technologies, solar, transportation and energy storage, and wind.

The Results

According to the study, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Ohio are among the states that have a strong set of policies that support green-business creation. The findings also feature the cities that have sought to create a full range of green jobs, including jobs in manufacturing and technology.

Examples include: Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colo.; Cleveland, Ohio; Los Angeles, Calif., and the San Francisco Bay area cities; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. Additionally, Newark, N.J., and several cities in California including - Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco - have been successful in creating green jobs that provide living wages.

'Many cities and states are claiming to become the 'capital' of green technology, but only a few really have strong, proactive policies in place to make that claim stick in order to create the highly paid green jobs,' Hess said. 'During our research, we found that only some states and cities were able to bring together the research and innovation side with support for funding, technology transfer, business development, and green jobs training.'

'Every state and city is different. They all have their unique industry strengths, socioeconomic concerns, and geographical constraints. But some have done better at addressing their needs than others,' said Jaime D. Ewalt, a researcher on the team and Ph.D. candidate in the chemistry and environmental science department at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

'Already we are seeing that some states and cities have moved ahead to become leaders in the new industries,' Hess said. 'Our findings suggest that if policymakers are serious about getting and keeping the upper-end green jobs in manufacturing and innovation, they need to be serious about the suite of policies that need to be in place.'

'We have some of the best students of the next generation of environmental studies and policy that have worked with me to develop this study,' Hess added. 'Our research provides successful examples of existing initiatives that may offer other state and city governments with potential ideas that they may consider when implementing their strategies in order to connect energy policies with job creation and business development.

A key part of this report provides a number of down-to-earth ideas on how cities can help to create green jobs. thought the examples cited are for U.S. cities, the advice provided could have far wider implications.

City Governments

For city governments, the general demand policies are less prominent than at the stategovernment level, but many cities have climate action plans with overall goals for greenhousegas reduction, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Many cities have also established an office of sustainability to coordinate policies. In addition, cities often have a suite of policies that will spur the demand for services in the weatherization, retrofitting, building auditing, and construction industries:

  • Establish LEED silver or gold standards for new construction and renovations of public buildings (e.g., Portland's LEED gold standards).
  • Set a goal to power the city government's electricity completely from renewable energy (e.g., the city of Grand Rapid's 100-percent renewable energy goal).
  • Develop green-building guidebooks and weatherization manuals (e.g., Philadelphia's manuals).
  • Establish financial incentives through local electricity service providers to motivate green-building improvements (e.g., Austin Energy's programs).
  • Establish a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) bonds program, but given the delays as a result of federal policy, establish alternative financing mechanisms such as a revolving loan fund with on-bill payment (e.g., Portland's on-bill payment program).
  • Facilitate a building deconstruction program for unused and abandoned buildings (e.g., Cleveland's deconstruction program).
  • Establish a greening program for the port and other industrial districts (e.g., the Los Angeles program for greening the port).
  • Establish a green impact zone for low-income neighborhoods (e.g., the Kansas City green-impact zone)
  • Make available a free or inexpensive energy audit program (e.g., Austin's home energy program).
  • Require residential buildings to have an energy audit before sale and commercial buildings to have an energy rating (e.g., Austin's requirement).

The report identifies fifteen groups of 'supply-side' policies that cities are using to encourage green business development and creation. Again, the numbers listed here represent columns in the table (see Table Two):

  1. Develop a city sustainability plan or climate action plan that goes beyond urban greeningand emissions goals to establish goals for green job development (e.g., San José's green jobs goals).
  2. Undertake a self-assessment of industrial strengths and set goals for clean-energy or clean-tech business development that are a realistic match with the regional economy (e.g., the Portland plan for industrial cluster development).
  3. Develop a web site that identifies local green businesses for purchasing decisions (e.g., New York's web site for green manufacturing that is 'made in New York').
  4. Help to establish a strong local sustainable business association that has programs for local and small business greening (e.g., the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia).
  5. Host a national umbrella organization in a targeted clean-energy industry and/or regularly host national or international events for one or more clean-energy industries (e.g,. Austin's recruitment of Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Association).
  6. Facilitate systematic connections among local universities, government representatives, business leaders, and nonprofit organizations (e.g., San Diego's Clean Tech Alliance).
  7. Host an annual sustainability summit or advisory council that engages all stakeholders to link diverse urban constituencies for clean-energy business development (e.g., Cleveland's sustainability summit).
  8. Establish a clean-tech corridor or industrial park (e.g., the Boston clean-tech district).
  9. Develop accelerated permitting and new zoning for clean-energy businesses (e.g., Seattle's accelerated permitting).
  10. Develop one-stop shopping for green business assistance, including marketing (e.g., Boston's one-stop shopping).
  11. Create links between new business ventures and capital (e.g., San José's incubator and other programs).
  12. Link local rail or renewable energy development to local manufacturing (e.g., Portland's Oregon Iron Works).
  13. Gather and disseminate information on diverse green job training options in the region,including outreach into high schools (e.g., New York's information program).
  14. Establish partnerships for green jobs training among the city government, community organizations, unions, high schools, and local educational institutions (e.g., the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership).
  15. Work with local organizations to ensure that green-jobs programs include multiskill training for persons with employment barriers and youth at risk (e.g., Chicago's multiskill training programs).

In summary, the report finds that in addition to the widely studied demand-side policies there is also a less well-recognized suite of policies that state and local governments candevelop that help to strengthen local businesses that create green jobs. This report brings together

Building Clean-Energy Industries and Green Jobs in one location the best practices of state and local governments in order to faciliate goal-setting and planning for a clean-energy transition that includes business development and job creation.

Although not all of the policies can be applied in every state and local government context, the survey of policies provides many good ideas, often at a relatively low cost, for the greening of regional economies.

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