California's Expanding Green Economy

An emerging green economy not only increases demand for skilled electricians and other workers in California, but also is expanding those skills to new tasks and is creating entirely new occupations, according to a just-released study.

The green economy gas generally outpaced total economic growth in all but one of California's 11 regions. The Sierra region was the lone exception, according to the "Many Shades of Green" report by NEXT 10, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco.

“During the great recession, certain sectors of the overall economy suffered huge losses. The core green economy fared better when it came to retaining jobs and businesses in California,” said Tracey Grose, Vice President and Director of Research at Collaborative Economics, which authored the report for Next 10. “Growing the diverse sectors within the state’s clean economy improves California’s overall economic resilience.”

Here are some other highlights from the NEXT 10 study, which is available on the organization's web site. Here is the link.

1/Between 1995 and 2010, green economy employment expanded 113% in Sacramento, 76% in the Bay area, 65% in San Diego, 62% in Orange County and 22% in the San Joaquin Valley.

2/ Manufacturing represents a strong sector, accounting for 27% of jobs in the core green economy compared with just 10% in the total economy. Manufacturing in the state’s core green economy expanded 1% in 1009-10 and 53 % from 1995 to Jan. 2010.

3/Employment and business growth varies across 15 green industry segments, but energy infrastructure (+14%), advanced materials (+4%), clean transportation (+1%), and energy generation (+1%) bucked recessionary trends, exhibiting growth during the recession from

4/ Some jobs are being expanded to include new tasks such as supply chain managers. New titles, such as chief sustainability officer and energy auditor, are being created, and entirely new occupations - such as solar photovoltaic installers, processing technicians for biofuels and fuel cell technicians - are appearing specific to installation and application of new technology.

5/Households and businesses that increase efficiencies are reaping financial benefits and helping the state’s overall economy achieve greater energy and resource productivity. Products and services developed in the state’s green economy are accelerating and supporting this needed transition

The report notes the recession hit California hard, and that even green employers faced challenges in the last year. It suggests the state's progressive attitude and can-do spirit is a boost, but that incentives and government efficiency would help grow the green economy even more.

"California’s forward thinking public policy record has served to support the growth of markets related to clean energy and related products," the report says. "Further, the state benefits from its population of early adopters of new technology. These combined forces drive the innovation process and place the state at the forefront of the growing global green economy."

How big the green economy becomes in California remains to be seen, but the potential is strong. We just wrote about some serious new jobs at solar facilities (here), which are coming fast and furious in Central and Southern California. And businesses and residents are discovering the power of energy efficiency. Heck, there is even talk of getting power from ocean waves.

The NEXT 10 report has more. "As consumer habits change, they stimulate new markets and new business activity. As new technologies emerge, they can create greater positive impacts for the environment as well as the economy. By raising efficiency standards, streamlining permitting, offering incentives, and providing creative forms of financing, smartly crafted public policy can reinforce and even speed these vital dynamics."