State Roundup: LA Leads on Clean Energy Jobs, Solar Permitting Needs Work; Solar Gets Boost in GA; Iowans Love Wind

Los Angeles is New Leader in Green Jobs

Los Angeles has surpassed the Bay Area as home to more clean energy jobs than any other region in the nation, according to a study released by Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs Network (CCEJ Network).

The report says rapid growth will continue, with the number of green jobs in the region likely to double to more than 433,000 by 2040.

"California’s commitment to clean energy is starting to bear fruit – in the form of high-wage, skilled jobs," says Tom Steyer, Founder and co-managing partner of Farallon Capital Management and Co-Chair of Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs Network. "Los Angeles is a great example of what is possible if we double-down on investments in clean energy, instead of continuing our reliance on fossil fuels."

According to the study, the green job sector has grown at triple the rate of the rest of the region’s economy over the last 15 years.

Green jobs now account for about 178,500 of the roughly 4.5 million workers employed in the LA region in 2010, or about 3.9% of total employment, and 4.5% of private sector employment. That’s more than ten times as many workers in the LA region than those in petroleum and coal products production (4,400 in 2009, according to the Employment Development Department).

NY Metro Also Leads

Although California leads on clean energy jobs and more progressive cleantech businesses, the NY Metro area leads on conventional jobs in "greener industries" like mass transit.

152,034 jobs in the 30-county region – that includes Long Island – are tied to public transportation, waste management and recycling, clean energy and other green industries, concludes the Brookings Institution in its recent report on US green jobs.

Nearly 40% of the jobs are in mass transit, followed by waste management and treatment (19,316); conservation (10,733); professional environmental services (10,312); and recycling and reuse (9,131).

That report finds there are 2.7 million jobs in the US that can be classified as green jobs if both new economy jobs like clean energy and older economy jobs like mass transit and environmental cleanup are included.

California Could Generate $5B with Streamlined Solar Permitting

A simpler solar permitting processes could generate over $5 billion in additional economic growth for California, according to a new study, an increase of nearly 20% relative to the status quo.

The study also indicates that failing to adopt more efficient home solar permitting processes could jeopardize the expected $30 billion economic gain from solar market growth in California.

"These findings are tremendous for local governments because they offer a low-cost way to add billions to the economy," says SunRun Director of Government Affairs Ethan Sprague. "Solar permitting guidelines already exist and it’s just a matter of putting them to use. Governments that streamline their permitting processes sooner will generate a bigger economic impact in the long run, more permanent local jobs, and allow more families to save money by switching to solar."

In January SunRun issued a report, "The Impact of Local Permitting on the Cost of Solar Power." That report showed local solar permitting and inspection processes add an average of over $2,500 per home installation.

Vermont recently enacted a first-in-the-nation registration process to make it much easier for people to install small solar systems, and Colorado passed legislation to lower the cost of solar permit fees.

Residential solar installer SunRun released the study, which was conducted by AECOM’s economic consultancy group.

Georgia Power Announces Long-Overdue Commitment to Solar Power Purchasing

Georgia Power, a unit of the Southern Company, announced it will buy up to 50 MW of solar energy by 2015. 

The announcement is a tremendous boost for Georgia’s solar industry, where commercial and utility-scale installations have been slow to develop due in part to territorial services legislation, which protects Georgia Power’s monopoly in most of the state. 

The utility has been under pressure from environmental and solar industry groups to expand its solar energy purchases beyond its current level of a mere 4.4 MW. 

In June, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Lauren McDonald gave the utility 30 days to present ideas for investing in large-scale solar projects.

Georgia Power says it will pursue 20-year power purchase agreements with individual solar developers – the plan was unanimously approved by the Public Service Commission last week.

Iowa Voters Love Wind Power

Voters in the important presidential primary state of Iowa overwhelming support the wind industry, according to new polling results.

The poll was conducted by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies, who is also polling this year for GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney.

The survey of of 400 likely Iowa voters plus 308 additional likely Republican Iowa caucus-goers finds that:

  • 85% statewide have a favorable impression of wind energy and wind power companies, including 62% with a “very favorable” impression. 
  • A majority of Iowa voters choose wind as their preferred energy source for the state, more than 3-to-1 over all other sources
  • More than eight in ten voters (81%) say wind energy companies have been good for the state’s economy, while fully 77% say these companies have helped bring new jobs to the state

“You don’t see numbers like these for anything except mom and apple pie,” says Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA, which commissioned the poll and released its results this week.

“In the state that knows wind energy the best, people overwhelmingly like it—and the companies that make it,” Bode said. “These poll results ought to reassure anyone thinking about inviting wind energy into their community, and getting all the rural economic development benefits and manufacturing base that Iowa has gotten from wind power.”

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