Green Jobs – Technology Paves the Way

With economies around the world struggling with recession, many policymakers are looking for the “next big thing” that can spark recovery, economic expansion and job growth. At the same time, governments are grappling with proposed solutions to the climate crisis. The quick answer to these issues is to promote “green jobs”, but successfully building the infrastructure to make the clean tech sector a tangible part of the economy is a complex challenge.

One model can be found in California’s Silicon Valley. Through a combination of favorable public policy, innovative technology, a skilled workforce and enlightened investments, Silicon Valley is paving the way to lead the developing green economy. Volatility of energy prices and recognition of the need to reduce GhG emissions combine to create an opportunity to grow clean energy based on technology strengths, opening up areas such as solar, wind, and batteries, as well as high-powered electronics designed to conserve energy. According to the recent Climate Prosperity report by Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network, the region now accounts for 31% of all clean tech investment in the U.S. and 55% in California. Venture capital investment alone reached nearly $1.9B in 2008.

All this investment will have widespread effects as clean technologies are applied to existing industries, including green buildings (energy saving glass, etc.), transportation and electric generation and manufacturing. As green technology moves from the labs into manufacturing and then again into the mainstream, it will also create opportunities for ‘green collar’ jobs (installing renewables, constructing energy efficient homes and retrofitting existing buildings to conserve energy). This economic opportunity can span literally thousands of small businesses, doing things like solar installations all over the country, creating jobs that leverage a wide range of skills and generating revenue and profits.

While the U.S. takes a holiday to recognize labor, it is also time to focus on future job creation as the U.S. Congress reconvenes and considers the Federal Clean Energy bill. Technology can be at the forefront of jump-starting another job revolution, one that millions can participate in and one that America can, once again, take the lead.

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