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03/19/2012 04:31 PM     print story email story  

Pacific Northwest Could Have 1.5 Million Green Jobs by 2020 News

About 3% of people who live along the West Coast have green jobs, according to a study released by the Pacific Coast Collaborative.

That's 508,000 green jobs, and it could triple to 1.5 million by 2020 if policies stay on track and strengthen.

Those jobs currently contribute 2% of the region's GDP, or about $47 billion of economic activity. If they were to triple, the green sector would grow by more than 200% to $140-$192 billion by 2020.

And those are conservative estimates, says the study. The green economy would bring prosperity locally and would also grow by exporting cleantech solutions to Asia.

Clean economy jobs have grown on average 2-3 times faster than total jobs in the economy over the last decade, and are more resilient to market volatility and vulnerabilities, says the report.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire says the regional data offers "proof that our actions are already working. Now we want to go even faster," reports InsideClimate News.

The Pacific Northwest and British Columbia need to continue high levels of investment and coordinate them better, according to the study, "West Coast Clean Economy," conducted by GLOBE Advisors and the Center for Climate Strategies.

Today, the four governments have "a patchwork of policies and incentives programs, many of which are short term or sporadic in nature," Paul Shorthouse, co-author of the report and director of special projects for GLOBE, told InsideClimate.

The report covers these sectors: environmental protection and resource management; energy efficiency and green building; clean transportation; clean energy; and knowledge and support, which includes green job training programs.

California attracts the lions share of green investments at 85% and has over 60% of the green jobs because of its large population. Washington is second with 16% of jobs, followed by British Columbia with 12% and Oregon with 11%.

Brooking's 2011 study came up with a similar number of green jobs for the Pacific Northwest (450,000), finding the region has 17% of the total 2.7 million green jobs in the US.

What Kinds of Green Jobs?

Both studies conclude that most of the jobs aren't in clean energy, as many people assume, but rather they're in established green sectors such as recycling, pollution mitigation, organic farming and sustainable forestry. 60% of the jobs in the Pacific Northwest are in those areas according to Pacific Coast's study.

The areas of highest potential in terms of job growth and industrial development are:

1. Green Building: whole building retrofits, energy efficient equipment, and new, high-efficiency construction. This sector currently employs about 81,000 people (16% of jobs) and could grow to 443,000 people within a decade.

2. Environmental Protection & Resource Management: greater recycling and reuse, more efficient infrastructure, conservation of natural resources and restoration of damaged ecosystems.

3. Clean Transportation: Electric vehicles, enhanced public transit infrastructure, and lower-carbon intensive energy sources such as natural gas. This area currently hosts 12% of green jobs.

4. Clean Energy Supply: distributed energy systems, smart grid infrastructure and transmission, and enhanced integration among renewable sources. This area currently supplies 11% of green jobs.

5. Knowledge & Support: educational institutions for workforce skills development and strengthening centers of excellence that build on the knowledge base of the clean economy. This area currently accounts for 3.5% of green jobs.

Clean energy industries produce more jobs than fossil fuel industries across the supply chain, says the report. A solar PV plant creates 7-11 jobs per megawatt of capacity over its lifetime, compared to just 1 job per megawatt for coal and natural gas plants.

How Do We Get There?

As always, the first recommendation is to level the playing field for clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation.

That means true cost accounting for carbon and energy and removing other to stimulate innovation and private sector investment.

Collaborate regionally to leverage each area's strengths to create a strong, globally competitive market for clean technology products and services.

  • Harmonize codes and standards to reduce administrative costs and foster investment by driving large -scale market demand for energy efficiency;
  • Develop a regional market to allow firms to develop products/ services for larger markets and gain important economies of scale;

  • View workforce development as a regional issue that can deliver key clean economy skills and address knowledge shortages;

  • Create regional policies to attract outside capital and lift up new forms of sustainable infrastructure 

Key enablers to make this happen include:  

Clear, stable policy frameworks; financial assistance programs and mechanisms that facilitate investments in energy efficiency and green building such as bonds; and broad-based public awareness and education throughout the school system to develop an appreciation and understanding of the clean economy.

The most important thing, however, is that leaders take a strong stand on their unwavering commitment to a green economy and addressing climate change.

The Pacific Northwest now has a strong foundation to build on, but it requires a long term public policy commitment and active participation and investment by the business community. The two are linked: public sector policy creates private sector opportunity for clean economic action.


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