Clean Power Politics: Green Jobs Still the 'It Girl'


It looks like, at least for the gubernatorial set, the bloom didn’t fall off the promise of green jobs as the calender year turned over to 2010. This morning dueling press conferences will be held by the governors of California and New Mexico touting how clean power companies can deliver a booming green economy, so-called green-collar jobs and innovation for the states.

First up at Schott Solar’s new manufacturing facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, governor Bill Richardson plans to hold a press conference and make an announcement at 10:30 AM (9:30 PT) about how he will implement the five goals he outlined in his Green Jobs Cabinet’s report. German solar giant Schott opened up the $100 million plant (it makes both PV and thermal receivers) in May of last year, creating 350 jobs, with the potential to create 1,500.

Just 30 minutes after Richardson touts the green economy of New Mexico, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will arrive at Silicon Valley biobutanol maker Cobalt Biofuels (10AM PT). Schwarzenegger will tour the facility and hold a press conference on a legislative proposal to exempt the purchase of green tech manufacturing equipment from the sales tax in his California Jobs Initiative. Sales tax exemptions for green manufacturing equipment could, in theory, help companies like Cobalt speed up commercialization and create more jobs.

The fact that the policy push for clean power has now morphed into a green jobs plan is indisputable, as Environmental Capital puts it. And it’s not just the states. Last week President Obama announced $2.3 billion in tax credits worth up to 30 percent of the costs for 183 manufacturing projects in 43 states. The Obama administration even hopes that Congress will green-light an additional $5 billion in funding to expand the program.

The DOE estimates that the facilities supported by the awards announced last week will generate more than 17,000 jobs. With matching funds from the private sector, the agency expects the projects to result in another 41,000 jobs. However, those jobs aren’t necessarily cheap — the Wall Street Journal points out that the DOE credits work out to $135,000 per job (defined as one year of employment) and after the private investment $131,000 per green job.

Will those jobs last and, the bigger question, will green manufacturing jobs eventually flee to China, which is swiftly defining itself as the clean power manufacturing powerhouse? The country is throwing down the gauntlet on the smart grid, solar thermal, solar PV, and for a long time now, wind power. China’s deals with U.S. innovators like eSolar and First Solar (s FSLR) deftly require the companies to manufacture their products in China. Can we even compete when it comes to green manufacturing jobs?

Image courtesy of eSolar.

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