What does a green job look like?
We’ve all heard the recent buzz surrounding “green jobs” and the new clean energy economy. Our leaders are crafting plans to invest in green jobs, but what are “green jobs?”
Green jobs are based on jobs millions of Americans already do. They’re green because they help transition our economy and nation to a prosperous clean energy future. Green jobs help revitalize our economy by investing in repowering, rebuilding, and refueling America for the 21st Century. And most of the skills and job training already exists in work we do every day.
Colorado is at the forefront of the green jobs revolution. Right here in Colorado, companies are manufacturing the hardware for the “new energy economy” and developing new power generation projects that use the wind and the sun to power our economy.
Green jobs include millions of skilled labor jobs needed to get these technologies and businesses up and running. Green jobs include the workers building transmission lines necessary to get clean new energy to the markets. Green jobs will include workers at the Cameo coal plant near Grand Junction that Xcel Energy seeks to convert to a new solar thermal demonstration project which, if successful, could lead to many more such projects. Green jobs include the 1,300 scientists and researchers working at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, developing new technologies and helping pave the way for widespread commercial use of these clean energy technologies.
Many Coloradans already work in the clean energy economy, and many more will, as we continue our transition to clean energy. Jobs like accountants, clerks, factory workers, truck drivers, mechanics, engineers, electricians, architects, machinists, computer programmers, farmers and sheet metal workers are all part of the green job revolution. A lot more of them wear hard hats than suits and ties.
Colorado has already taken big steps towards creating a clean energy economy by requiring that 20 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. This popular law harnesses the state’s abundant renewable energy resources for the benefit of consumers. A similar such standard at the federal level, combined with new transmission to deliver this clean power to markets, would produce hundreds of thousands more new, homegrown jobs.
Colorado’s commitment to renewable energy is one reason why Vestas is investing more than $700 million in the state, which will create nearly 2,500 new jobs. In fact Vestas just broke ground on three new manufacturing plants in Brighton and Pueblo, to produce giant wind turbine blades, towers and nacelles that will power the “new energy economy. Machinists, fork lift drivers and sheet metal workers will be among the new employees needed to construct and make parts for the wind turbines … not your stereotypical “greenies.”
Colorado’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, will double its renewable energy generation in the next six years, and President Obama wants to double the nation’s renewable energy generation in the next three years. As a leader in the New Energy Economy, Colorado and its workers are poised to benefit tremendously from these investments.
New federal and state energy policies will help us continue building a clean energy economy by developing wind, solar and geothermal resources; retrofitting homes and businesses with new energy-efficient windows, insulation and appliances; and retooling our trucks and cars. This holds the promise of creating millions of more American jobs.
By building and retrofitting for energy efficiency, we can create jobs for an estimated 800,000 construction workers across the nation. Using existing construction practices, construction crews can retrofit homes, offices and schools with enhanced energy efficiency measures and environmentally friendly materials and technologies. Such building and retrofitting helps to create a clean energy economy by lowering environmental impacts of our homes and offices while at the same time making it cheaper to heat and light them.
Aggressive new deployment of energy efficiency products, along with technologies such as solar-powered hot water heaters, use of natural light, and recycling materials before and after construction, will help save energy and use less water than traditional buildings. These measures will create new jobs for contractors, plumbers, roofers and others in the supply chain involved in manufacturing, constructing and installing these clean energy products.
New federal and state policies can continue to grow our clean energy economy, creating millions of new jobs for Americans. America’s clean energy industries are ready to put people to work. Once our elected officials create the proper policy framework, these industries can make the investments necessary to transition our economy to a prosperous clean energy future. This will jump start our economy and create these new jobs.
Craig Cox is the executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, a non-profit trade association that represents the nation’s leading companies in the renewable energy industry, bringing them together with regional non-governmental organizations in the West to build collaborative, consensus-based approaches to new project development and transmission (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming). http://www.interwest.org
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