Every morning I wake up to more bad economic news--increasing concern that we're entering a recession, the credit crunch, and increases in energy prices.
And yet one industry is seeing growth despite the down times. The renewable energy industry is growing at a record pace. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the U.S. wind power industry installed 5,244 megawatts in 2007, expanding the nation's total wind power generating capacity by 45% in one year and injecting an investment of more than $9 billion into the economy.
The solar industry added more than 300 megawatts of capacity last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. From the Wall Street Journal article cited above, "(Solar power) [a]dditions are expected to roughly double this year. Large commercial solar installations now exceed home installations in California, reversing a long-term pattern and likely a bellwether for other states."As the industry grows, more people will be needed to manufacture the wind turbine and solar panel components, and more installers will be required. According to a study from the Blue-Green Alliance (a partnership between the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers) and the Renewable Energy Policy Project, requiring that 20% of our electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 would create 820,000 jobs across the country.
Despite the lack of significant government investment or support, training for those jobs is already underway in some places. Look at Van Jones' "Green for All" initiative - aimed at securing $1 billion in funding for green-collar job training in order to lift 250,000 people out of poverty across the country. . Another example is the White Earth Land Recovery Project , which is training the youth of Minnesota's White Earth Reservation in solar panel installation and weatherizing homes in that community.
Still another example is Lane Community College (LCC) in Eugene, Oregon. The college's Energy Management Program (with a Renewable Energy Technician Option) is growing quickly as demand increases for people trained in improving building and home energy efficiency and in renewable energy systems. Roger Ebbage, the program's director, says that the need for efficiency and renewable energy technicians will continue to grow because there are so many buildings in need of upgrades.
All of these programs are examples of people saying, "We can do it!" and making a decision to move toward a clean energy future. These are such great examples of positive thinking and being proactive - just think about how much more we can do if we all work together.
Inspired by these boot-strapping advances and hoping to incite even more action, the Blue-Green Alliance is holding a Green Jobs Conference on March 13 and 14 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The conference brings together people from faith communities, union leaders, renewable energy companies, government officials, activists, environmental organizations, college professors, and many others - all to discuss the many facets of the "green collar" job industry. Registration ends Monday, March 3, so sign up now!
UPDATE: Hundreds have already registered and the registration deadline has been extended until March 7! Sign up now!
Image credit::Sierra Club, Tucson AZ Solar Installation