Creating 1 Million Clean Economy Jobs On The West Coast

by Jorge Madrid

With a regional GDP contribution of $47 billion and over half a million jobs created in 2010, the clean energy economy is alive and well on the West Coast.

And the potential for continued growth in jobs and investment is enormous with more regional collaboration, according to a report released last week by members of the Pacific Coast Collaborative. At the this year’s GLOBE Conference on Business and the Environment in Vancouver, B.C., three U.S. states (Oregon, Washington, and California) along with the province of British Colombia have endorsed an action plan to further grow the clean economy along the West Coast.

“We have proof that our actions are already working…. Now we want to go even faster — and create up to one million jobs in the next decade through the 2012 Action Plan on Jobs,” said Washington Governor and Pacific Coast Collaborative Chair Chris Gregoire in a press release.

“We have come together … to reject the myth that jobs and the environment are in conflict,” said Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. “More than 500,000 Pacific Coast residents are cashing clean economy paychecks right now. And job creation rates in the clean economy are well above those for other shrinking sectors of the economy, pay better, and have been more resilient to the recent economic downturn.

The plan, which is also expected to generate $147–192 billion in GDP growth for the region by 2020, will focus on 5 key Clean Economy market opportunities:

  1. Energy Efficiency and Green Building — including the use of the “highest” green building standards for new and retrofitted public buildings, promoting zero-net energy building design and practices, encouraging private sector support for innovative financing mechanisms, and harmonizing environmental and energy efficiency standards and requirements for increased transparency, predictability, and business certainty.
  2. Environmental Protection and Resource Management — including data sharing initiatives for the region’s climate change adaptation and resiliency strategies, emergency response plans, and a new “natural capital” index. As well as establishing a resource recovery initiative to drive new markets for recycled goods and construction waste. Also includes plans to develop new projects in urban forestry and conservation, organic farming, and the restoration of damaged ecosystems.
  3. Clean Transportation — including the deployment of a region-wide clean transportation strategy building off of the West Coast Green Highway initiative. Also includes joint-purchasing of low-carbon vehicles, integrating electrification and/or alternative fuel use in regional ports, exploring benefits of a regional high-speed rail system, and lowering the carbon footprint of long-haul trucking operations.
  4. Clean Energy Supply — including the cooperative development of policies to expand deployment and private investment in the region’s clean energy sector, such as distributed energy systems, utility-scale clean energy projects, and smart grid infrastructure and transmission.
  5. Knowledge and Support — including plans to network existing “centers of excellence” to collaborate on research, share information and reduce costs. In addition, the region will focus on attracting, retraining, and sharing high-caliber workers, researchers, and investors by developing shared vision and goals, and leveraging marketing and branding efforts to promote the strength of the West Coast’s clean economy.

The focus on clear and stable regional policies, new frameworks to incentivize private investment, development of regional markets and trading networks, and broad-based public awareness and education campaigns (from k-12 to advanced research institutions), indicate that this new collaboration recognizes the power of regional clean energy strategies — an approach that the Center for American Progress supports). Of course, not all states share the same assets and political will. But it makes sense for states with regional interests to share information, technology, policy objectives, and their growing clean energy markets to create scale.

In the absence of federal action on clean energy and climate change, these states and provinces are guiding their own futures — and reaping the economic rewards of a new clean economy.

Jorge Madrid is a research associate for the Energy Policy Team at the Center for American Progress.