Report Touts Energy Efficiency And Rural Green Energy

The latest in a string of reports that says improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings is the fastest and easiest way to create clean-energy jobs and to save money also gives a little boost to rural farming regions such as the San Joaquin Valley.

"Rural communities, plagued by some of the highest unemployment rates in the state, have unique strengths that can capture clean-energy investment and create quality jobs in projects such as wind and solar farms, biodigesters and the cultivation and processing of sustainable non-food biofuels," The California Apollo Program says in a just-released report.

The study, a product of a new alliance of California business, labor, environmental and community leaders, suggests that farmers and communities could ultimately own and benefit from the generated power.

The Apollo report follows this study by a University of California, Merced, professor who projects the Valley could easily create 100,000 clean-energy jobs - and also substantiates studies that claim improving the efficiency of existing and new buildings is the most effective component of a clean-energy program. Combining efficiency program with a 33% renewable sources goal could produce 566,000 jobs statewide by 2020, according to the report.

We've written time and again about the power of energy-efficiency upgrades. They are the low-hanging fruit of the green movement. And their power is magnified in the San Joaquin Valley, where soaring power bills and low incomes squeeze consumers.

As online Green magazine Grist says, "Efficiency is the cheapest form of energy."

Modernizing California's out-of-date power grid should be part of the effort. At least six transmission lines must be built by 2030 to support projected demand and new renewable-energy projects, the authors say, citing the California Independent System Operator, the non-profit entity that controls the majority of the state's power grid.

The Apollo authors note that California leads the nation in the number of clean-energy jobs, businesses and patents, and accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. venture capital in renewables technology. As the eighth-largest economy in the world, California has the leverage to mobilize investment and ingenuity in the emerging industry.

A huge deficit and crushing recession complicates matters, of course, but California voters showed in the last election that they support clean energy. Plus, Gov-elect Jerry Brown is a supporter and has developed his own jobs plan.

Who knows what will happen, but could clean energy be the next technological innovation in California? And, if so, will the San Joaquin Valley reap the benefits?