Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The California Clean Energy Economy -- As Close As Your Local Chamber of Commerce

This afternoon we have a guest blogger - Hank Ryan. Hank has been at the center of end user energy efficiency with over thirty years of experience in energy efficient lighting and energy auditing. He currently serves as the Executive Director of Small Business California and travels all over the state to meet with the different Chambers of Commerce to discuss clean energy use by small businesses in California

"The California Clean Energy Economy -- As Close As Your Local Chamber of Commerce"

By Hank Ryan, Small Business California

"Green Jobs” is a term that seems to get used by policy wonks and politicians almost as much as “Small Business” is thrown out to crowds in order to gain favor.

What are these new jobs? Is it just hype? Is the “clean energy economy” we hear about so dependent on government handouts that it will collapse when that support ebbs?

I’ve been working in the energy efficiency field for almost three decades and I found myself asking the same questions. I know this: even a paperboy knows not to throw his change into a sack with holes in it. Energy efficiency is no different. For instance, a California business that still has old style “fat bulb” fluorescent lighting is sending twice as much money for electricity to their local utility company than needed. Most California businesses have already switched to “T8” or thin bulb lamps using electronic ballasts and so that financial “hole in the sack” is plugged allowing more money for operations, salaries and profits.

In fact, America uses twice the energy per unit of GDP as do both Europe and Japan where the standard of living is on par with America. So there is a lot of profit recovery to be gained with buildings and manufacturing processes and even transportation. We’re looking at some seriously good returns on investment as we choose this path and no Jimmy Carter sweater is needed.
Thinking about the broader definition for green jobs and clean energy, what does that really mean?

I decided to visit California Chambers of Commerce hoping that might be one way to find out. Now after visiting over 135 local California chamber offices in over the last year and researching clean energy stories in the news, a more complete picture is starting to develop. One observation I found interesting is that for every story I collected where California companies belonging to local chambers were successfully seeding, growing and harvesting their own version of the clean economy, another four California companies had great clean energy success stories but did not belong to a local chamber of commerce. (Note to membership directors: Opportunity!)

Throughout this process, I’ve produced one page stories to document what I’ve found and here are some examples:

In Carpenteria, a company called Clipper Windpower designs and builds very large wind turbines for export to other states. They are in good company. According to a report released by the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy jobs increased 70 percent to 85,000 in 2008, 4,000 more workers than are employed in coal mining.

The Santa Clara Chamber boasts a company, Applied Materials, with 13,000 employees. They make the technology that helps companies increase manufacturing productivity. This lowering of production costs is how solar and LED applications will become affordable. As these less costly renewable and energy efficient technologies enter into the mainstream of our economy, so does the savings to Californians in both energy costs and emissions reduction which help to grow the economy and our tax base too.

Ecotourism: Charise Hale McHugh,, CEO of the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce has developed a smart path forward that guides CA chambers toward building business based on nature, history and local culture.

Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency and Hanford Chamber member that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide soil depleted and otherwise unusable land for what would be one of the world's largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres. At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.

The Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce "Green Team" is offering leadership as a California Chamber administering a Recycling Market Development Zone (RMDZ), offering low interest loans to companies using recycled content feedstock.

There are lots more of these stories available in an SB-Cal booklet just published called, “32 Examples of Chambers of Commerce & Chamber Members in California LEADING THE CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY.” (

Together, they paint a picture of the broad spectrum that makes up the California clean economy. This looks like a sound basis for knowing green jobs are growing and more are on the way.

Hank Ryan

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