The last report we covered from nonprofit policy group Next 10 suggested that if the rest of the country had followed California’s lead in supporting clean energy, improving efficiency and creating green jobs, it might have avoided the economic doldrums that the U.S. was sinking into at the time. That was in January. Today California is staring down a multibillion-dollar deficit.
Can the state — already the largest solar market in the country — really afford to maintain, and even increase investment in, clean energy projects and incentives? According to the latest Next 10 report, which will be presented at the California Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday: yes. The state has no better choice when it comes to energy and its economy, says the report.
UC Berkeley professor David Roland-Holst and his research team at the university’s Agricultural & Resource Economics department, who were commissioned by Next 10 to conduct the report released today, have found that “continuing on a business-as-usual energy path risks greater economic insecurity, while aggressive acceleration of clean energy assures faster and more sustained economic growth.” Roland-Holst’s research indicates that if California generates 50 percent of its electric power from renewable sources and increases energy efficiency by 1.5 percent per year — the most ambitious of five scenarios evaluated by the Berkeley team — it will result in 500,000 new jobs and with cumulative payrolls of more than $100 billion over the next four decades.
“Our analysis shows that the faster and farther we pursue energy efficiency and renewables,” Roland-Holst says, “the more prosperous and secure our economy will be,” in part because clean energy is more job intensive than the state’s current energy mix, and because it reduces the influence of global fossil fuel markets and their price volatility. As Roland-Holst points out, however, another important part of the puzzle for California is the potential for clean energy — utility-scale solar projects in the Mojave Desert, wind farms and potentially ocean power projects along the coast, plus geothermal — to keep energy investments within the state, rather than sending dollars to out-of-state power plants and fuel importers.
According to the California Energy Commission, more than a quarter of the state’s electricity came from out of state last year. The Next 10 report finds that reliance on imported fuels will increase if the state continues with its current energy mix as demand shoots even further past the in-state supply. And even if as much as 25 percent of cleantech manufacturing heads out of state, the researchers say California could capture significant job gains from clean energy projects.
Logo courtesy Next 10. State energy sources graphic credit California Energy Commission