clean energy jobs

Join Team SJVCEO!

Post Date: August 4, 2016

Position: Project Analyst, Full-Time
Location: Fresno, CA
Start Date: Immediately
Compensation: Based on experience
Benefits: Position is eligible for all company benefits, such as Health, Dental, 401K

Company Description:
The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization (SJVCEO), a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation, dedicated to promoting the widespread use of clean energy resources and increasing energy efficiency through work with local governments, utilities, and community colleges.  The organization facilitates partnerships and implements programs that empower utility end-users (municipal governments, businesses, students and residents) to practice smart energy management. The SJVCEO is pleased to be able to provide municipal project management assistance to local governments in the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley: San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern. 

Position Description:
The position will be responsible for managing the Municipal Energy Tune Up (METU) program throughout the eight county region. Responsibilities include managing and growing a portfolio of energy efficiency projects and working closely with local governments to reduce energy costs and use.  In addition to sound program and project management experience and training, relevant experience and accreditation and/or education pertaining to energy efficiency and energy management is highly desirable.

Key Responsibilities*:
  • Communicate and present complex, technical information effectively to customers to support decision making and strategic planning
  • Develop comprehensive and verified inventories of customer facilities and infrastructure and related information
  • Lead data collection efforts by working closely with utilities, local government agencies, consultants/contractors, and other partners
  • Utilize EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager software to collect, analyze, and report energy data and benchmark facilities and utility infrastructure, to develop customized energy plans, and to monitor trends over time
  • Coordinate and/or perform energy assessments and help customers select, finance, and implement cost-effective projects
  • Navigate, leverage, and coordinate programs, incentive applications, and financing available through utilities, State commissions, and other agencies
  • Build and maintain strong long-term relationships with customers and facilitate and coordinate regular meetings with customers, utility companies, and consultants/contractors
  • Support quarterly and annual reporting requirements, meeting preparation, and other administrative tasks as needed
  • Develop and maintain project tracking documents and databases.
  • Provide ongoing technical and project management support to local government and utility staff.
  • Prepare and present case studies of successful projects.
  • Serve as a technical resource for the SJVCEO team across multiple projects.
  • Provide comprehensive support to all SJVCEO activities as directed by Executive Director.

*Key responsibilities may change based on program contract modifications, Utility or CPUC direction.

  • Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of three years of applicable work experience in the energy efficiency industry or related field or five years of applicable work experience.
  • Knowledge of facility energy systems and operations.
  • Familiarity with energy utility programs is preferred.
  • Experience with US EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager strongly desired.
  • Strong project management skills.
  • Love of data.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Intermediate to advance Microsoft Office skills are required, especially Microsoft Access and Microsoft Excel.
  • Must be available to work outside of regular business hours.
  • Professional appearance and demeanor.
  • Passion for saving energy and the environment.

  • Valid driver’s license and insurance.
  • Vehicle for travel throughout the San Joaquin Valley required.
  • Clean DMV record.
  • Must be able to pass a criminal background check.

To Apply: Please send a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and salary history to:

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, Attn: Courtney Kalashian
Post: 4747 North First Street, Suite 140
Fresno, CA  93726
No calls please

Incomplete application packages are subject to immediate disqualification. 

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

Here are your wEEkly updates:

1. Updates from the EE Coordinating Committee: for meeting updates, reminders on comment deadlines, and a change in schedule for business plan development, see this week’s updates from the CA EE Coordinating Committee (CAEECC).  For more background on the Committee and how they facilitate local government and other stakeholder feedback on how EE funds are administered, check out the CAEECC website or take a look at this FAQ.

2. Communicating on EE: Need help communicating the value of EE in your community? This GreenBiz excerpt from the book Energy is Human describes some best practices for rethinking how we talk about efficiency.

3. Need EE Code Trainings? Did you know you can request a Title 24 Part 6 Essentials training be brought to a location of your choice? You can – and it’s free of charge – click here for details.

4. Over $457M in Funding Available: more than $457 million is available at the federal level for local and tribal government climate and energy activities: including pre-disaster mitigationcommunity resiliency, and air pollution reduction.

5. Keeping EE Affordable: As we’re seeing more and more about how efficient buildings are more valuable buildings (due to their lower cost of ownership and more), GreenBiz reviews how to keep upfront costs off low-income residents.

6. Multi-family EE resources: Affordable housing is often multi-family housing. For a list of resources in California specifically dedicated to multi-family EE, click here. Or take a look at multi-family EE program best practices in this 2015 report.

7. New Multi-family EE Strategies in NY: Looking outside California, a new multi-family energy program was announced this week from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

8. Making EE Buildings Visible: while on the subject of EE in buildings with multiple stakeholders: the US Dept. of Energy announced a new partnership under the Better Buildings Initiative with a firm that provides data intelligence to commercial real estate to improve the visibility of EE benefits.

9. Energy storage and microgrids: get new coverage from Navigant on the role of energy storage as the microgrid market matures.

10. The CPUC on microgrids and more: the CPUC issued a new proposed decision last week proposing a number of updates to California’s Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP).

11. Best practices in reducing plug loadEnvironmental Leader came out with five recommendations on checking appliances and reducing plug load in response to recent EPA audit results. A recent article from the NY Times also provides transparency on what appliances are consuming even in off or standby modes. For more on plug load, click here.

12. EE Computer Standards: while on plug load: the CEC has shared the transcript of its recent workshop on computer efficiency standards.

13. Seeking input on statewide EE programs: this week, the CPUC also released a new ruling seeking to work through approaches to statewide and third party programs and approaches in how EE funding and offerings are administered. A number of program categories are proposed for statewide implementation. Comments on this new approach are due June 10th. More on the restructuring of EE program timelines and review available here.)

14. Opportunities in electric water heaters: A new study by the Brattle Group finds significant residential savings opportunities through electric water heaters.

15. More reasons to take air pollution seriously: Need help communicating the importance of clean air? A new study confirms that air pollution contributes to the #1 cause of death.

16. New podcast from DOEGet connected to a new “Direct Current: podcast released this month from the Department of Energy!

17. Waste Heat is Power: For an old but innovative approach to efficiency, learn from Berkeley Engineer how a firm is using thermoelectrics to convert waste heat to energy.

18. Job Announcement: Cleantech San Diego is hiring for a Project Manager!

19. Job Announcement: San Diego State University is hiring for an Energy Analyst!

20. Energy Data Survey: as a reminder, the Energy Data Access Committee wants to hear from local governments re: their experience accessing data for climate action planning, through this survey available for a limited time here.

21. Weatherization Reminder: Interested in informing weatherization program development based on needs you see in your community? The Department of Community Services and Development (CSD)’s June 2nd workshop is coming up: RSVP to attend in person or by webinar here.

As always, you can keep track of relevant events by connecting to the EE Events Calendar, and find more resources being added daily on the EECoordinator website – including past WEEkly Updates

That’s all for this week!

SJVCEO is hiring!

Position: Project Analyst, Full-Time
Location: Fresno, CA
Start Date: Immediately
Compensation: Based on experience
Benefits: Position is eligible for all company benefits, such as Health, Dental, 401K

Company Description:
The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization (SJVCEO), a non-profit 501 (c)3 corporation, dedicated to promoting the widespread use of clean energy resources and increasing energy efficiency through work with local governments, utilities, and community colleges.  The organization facilitates partnerships and implements programs that empower utility end-users (municipal governments, businesses, students and residents) to practice smart energy management. A key partnership facilitated by the SJVCEO is the Valley Innovative Energy Watch (VIEW).

The VIEW is a multidimensional municipal and community-focused energy efficiency program managed in partnership with Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, The Gas Company and San Joaquin Valley local governments including: Avenal, Corcoran, Dinuba, Farmersville, Hanford, Lemoore, Lindsay, Porterville, Tulare, Visalia, Woodlake and the counties of Kings and Tulare.

Position Description:
The SJVCEO is seeking a full-time Project Analyst to support the implementation of the VIEW 2013-14 program initiatives throughout the San Joaquin Valley. The initiatives cover municipal energy retrofit project management, community outreach and education, and support for the development of city policies that fulfill the goals set forth in the California Long-term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. Essential to this position is the ability to work in a dynamic and diverse team environment to provide support and build relationships between utility representatives and municipal customers throughout the region. The Project Analyst will focus on implementing the municipal energy retrofit initiative and supporting Strategic Plan goals.

Key Responsibilities*:
·       Serve as a point-of-contact for municipal facility staff and utility account representatives.
·       Identify opportunities for comprehensive energy efficiency retrofit projects within municipalities.
·       Facilitate and track new and existing energy efficiency projects with municipal facility staff, utility account representatives and energy consultants.
·       Provide ongoing technical and project management support to local government and utility staff.
·       Prepare and present case studies of successful projects.
·       Serve as a technical resource for the SJVCEO team across multiple projects.
·       Assist in developing benchmarking policies and energy management solutions for municipalities.
·       Be proactive in identifying and responding to partner requests and needs.
·       Develop and maintain project tracking documents and databases.
·       Serve as a program representative at community outreach events.
·       Conduct presentations promoting energy efficiency, utility programs and case studies.
·       Provide comprehensive support to all SJVCEO activities as directed by Executive Director.

*Key responsibilities may change based on program contract modifications, Utility or CPUC direction.

·       Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 3 years of applicable work experience in the energy industry or related field.
·       Knowledge of facility energy systems and operations.
·       Familiarity with energy utility programs is preferred.
·       Strong project management skills.
·       Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
·       Intermediate to advance Microsoft Office skills are required.
·       Must be available to work outside of regular business hours.
·       Valid driver’s license and insurance.
·       Vehicle for travel throughout the San Joaquin Valley required.
·       Professional appearance and demeanor.
·       Passion for saving energy and the environment.

To Apply: Please send a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and salary history to:

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, Attn: Courtney Kalashian
Post: 4747 North First Street, Suite 140
Fresno, CA  93726
No calls please

The Theory of Probability supplies not a small number of unexpected results, controversial problems and paradoxes.

Coincidences fascinate us. They seem to compel a search for their significance. More often than some people realize, however, they're to be expected and require no special explanation. Surely no cosmic conclusions may be drawn from the fact that I recently--and quite by accident--met someone in Salinas whose 1) father played on the same Chicago high school baseball team as my father had and 2) daughter is the same age and has the same name as my daughter. As improbable as this particular event was, that some event of this vaguely characterized sort should occasionally occur is quite likely.

No time should be wasted trying to explain the meaning of these or other coincidences of similar type. They just happen.

More precisely, it can be shown, that if two strangers sit next to each other on an airplane, more than 99 times out of 100 they will be linked in some way by two or fewer intermediates. (The linkage with my father's classmate was more striking; it was via only one intermediate, my father, and contained other elements.) Maybe, for example, the cousin of one passenger will know the other's dentist. Most of the time people won't discover these links, since in casual conversation they don't usually run through all their 1,500 or so acquaintances as well as all their acquaintances' acquaintances.

With our seemingly endless interconnections and ability for instant access in a web based world, it makes one wonder why it's so hard to get information on where all the clean energy sector jobs are, or where they are planned to be? Is it really so top secret? 

One would believe that if there are jobs to be found the key is to connect those jobs with a qualified workforce...yet all I find are fee based database after fee based database. AAAGGGHHH!!!

I'm aware that we live in a capitalistic society but for peat's sake people! Where are the jobs in the clean energy sector? I say we get on a plane and start talking to one another. Aren't we all working for the same cause? Let's stop duplicating efforts and trying to vie for credit and begin working together for the cause--start collaborating to produce a viable product that can really make a difference.

Okay...okay, enough said...sorry if I sound a bit frustrated but let me tell you a little secret. I am frustrated.

I don't know about you but...I do feel a little better. Thanks for the bend of the ear, I will be sure to return the favor.

Oh, and if anyone has any info they would like to share with me regarding clean and renewable jobs in the San Joaquin Valley, please do, dcox at pesc dot com ( or feel free to call me at (559) 490-1318.

photo credit: caribb via photopin cc

photo credit: SenatorMarkUdall via photopin cc

JOB OPENING: Energy Industry Fundamentals Adjunct Instructor

The first Clean Energy job under our C6 program?  The instructor for the Energy Industry Fundamentals course!  

West Hills College, as part of a Department of Labor, Trade Adjustment AssistanceCommunity College and Career Training Grant Program known as “C6” will offer an introduction to the energy industry course on the Coalinga Campus.  As a partner, the Clean Energy Organization is assisting West Hills Coalinga in recruiting an instructor for the six week course. *IT IS NOT OKAY TO CONTACT THE CAMPUS REGARDING THIS POSITION*

Desired Qualifications:
  • Industry experience with energy—electrical and gas power, California utilities, generation or other applicable energy subset.
  • AA degree with six years industry experience
  • BA with some industry experience
  • MA with minimal industry experience
  • Engaging personality!
  • Qualified OSHA Train the Trainer

 Position Specifics:
  • Dates: February 19-March 15, 2013
  • 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Monday through Friday
  • $59-61 per hour (DOE)
  • Paid for classroom hours only
  • Hired as a "part time" instructor by West Hills College Coalinga (it is not okay to contact the campus)
  • No benefits
Please email with interest and resume, or respond to our Craiglist posting at:

Clean Energy Jobs Workshop: A Review

On December 14, 2012 the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization (SJVCEO) hosted the “Clean Energy in the Valley: Where Are the Jobs?” workshop as part of the efforts for the Central California Community Colleges Committed to Change (C6). The SJVCEO is working with employers and West Hills College Coalinga to develop clean energy curriculum and how the Valley’s workforce is trained and prepared for employment. SJVCEO staff crafted this one-day workshop to serve as a true “work” shop in which attendees and organizers would collaborate to geographically determine where the jobs are now, where projects are planned, and what the actual employment opportunities are in the eight county region of the San Joaquin Valley. Data gathered would be used to jump start the project of populating an interactive geographic information system (GIS) based map that represents what, where and when clean energy jobs are available in the Valley, what training and certifications are needed at each site, and where training is available. In addition to the brainstorming breakout session, attendees were treated to three topical presentations. Guest speakers included Heather Croom and Dave Pastizzo of VESTRA to demonstrate the GIS map; Jim Anshutz of AG/H20 and the WET Center to discuss opportunities in the water/energy nexus; and Ryan Drobeck of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology to shed light on the market and policies that impact clean energy jobs. 

The workshop was well attended by those in both industry and education. So how long was the actual list of jobs that was created? Unfortunately, the list is nonexistent. We found having a room full of employers was beneficial in addressing the general issues, however, there was a concern about sharing information in front of potential competitors.  And heck, we cant really blame them.  

SJVCEO staff quickly realized that the agenda would need an ASAP course correction!  

Instead of trying to pry project information out of reluctant participants staff focused on what can make a difference: collaboration. We needed to take a large step back and look at the bigger picture. 

Deanna Fernandez, SJVCEO’s project coordinator, diligently listened and took note as to where the workshop attendees felt she should go to start mapping out the jobs. The consensus was that many of the barriers to finding these opportunities often lie in the public policy infrastructure. It is believed that approximately 40% of the permitted projects actually come to fruition, but identifying which ones is like finding a needle in the haystack. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and a unified solution found. The US Department of Energy has funded the SunShot Solar Initiative to combat policy barrier issues in the solar field, but what about other issues like locating potential employment opportunities in an effort to prepare a qualified workforce? Can a clearinghouse be developed to inform decision makers of potential economic opportunities? Deanna intends to begin research on the job market by contacting database management firms as well as each of the eight county offices of the San Joaquin Valley to obtain input and guidance. Other resources that will be utilized are the Great Valley Center in Modesto and the various workforce investment boards. This is, of course, in addition to targeted industry leaders in the clean and renewable energy fields.

The SJVCEO prides itself on taking a holistic approach when it comes to clean energy in the Valley. Our air quality is unhealthy. Our population is desperate for work. Our workforce is under-trained  It seems obvious that the C6 project is where the focus needs to be if the San Joaquin Valley intends to stay competitive and economically stable.

The SJVCEO’s resident wellness expert and certified holistic health coach, Maureen Hoff, puts her personal passion for health at the heart of the issue: “Something has to be done. Maybe you are already a top-paid executive, swing a bit more to the right, or just don’t believe in global warming so the idea of clean energy jobs seems silly. One thing we can all agree on is the fact that our air quality, especially here in the San Joaquin Valley, is nothing short of horrendous and our health is suffering. How can we expect to live full and satisfying lives when the air we breathe is full of toxins and particulate matter that poisons our lungs and diminishes the healthy possibilities of outside activities? Our environment is a huge part of our overall health and wellness. If we don’t begin working collectively for a solution, ensuring the duplication of efforts is eliminated, we will continue to suffer.” Suffer we will. From poor air quality, high surface ozone, non-attainment fines and the economic suppression the Valley has suffered from over the past twenty-five plus years, the outlook is grim. With projected growth rates over the next 20 years significantly higher in the San Joaquin Valley than for other parts of California or the United States (Tadlock Cowan, 2005), these problems are not going away anytime soon.

Barriers aside, the SJVCEO is committed to a positive attitude and restructuring the workforce in the Valley through the C6 efforts. Educators, employers, job-seekers, and the entire community will soon reap the rewards of the collaborative efforts. As the heart of the state, the San Joaquin Valley will serve as the life force that pushes California to its goals and beyond.

For more information related to the SJVCEO or C6 please contact SJVCEO Director, Courtney Kalashian, at or 877-748-0841. You can also visit the following websites: and

Photo credit: Courtney Kalashian

Clean Energy Jobs Workshop December 14th

Keynote Speaker: Ryan Drobek, Center for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Technologies,

Presenters Include:
Jim Anshutz, P.E., AgH20, WET Center Member
VESTRA, a leader in GIS/IT, Environmental Solutions, Engineering, and Surveying

To RSVP click here or call (877)748-0841

Clean Energy in the San Joaquin Valley: where are the jobs?

This event has been postponed to December 14th. Same time, same place.  For more information contact Courtney Kalashian @ (877) 748-0841 or

I may have mentioned in passing our project working with community colleges in the San Joaquin Valley--heck, even Huffington Post is talking about it--but I've not taken the time to really explain what we're doing and why we're doing it. Well, my apologies and please, allow me to tell you a bit about this thing we like to call "C6".

In May 2012 the SJVCEO began a partnership with the Central California Community Colleges Committed to Change (C6) consortium under a Department of Labor grant to redesign how community college students are trained to enter the clean energy workforce.  Our role is to convene educators with industry leaders to jointly design skills training based on real life needs. 

Our purpose is to serve as a convener of employers, industry experts and educators to look at Alternative/Clean Energy (ACE) education in a holistic manner. For the past six months we have been meeting with employers and asking what they want in their future employees.  We've meet with educators and asked what they're doing, and how they'd like to change it.  We have researched existing sources of curriculum, then taken it back to the employers and educators and asked how can we make this more applicable for students in Central California. 

But that wasn't enough. 

Maureen, Dee and I found ourselves asking, 'where are all these newly trained students going to go?' and we didn't have a concrete answer and with that a workshop was born! (PS--you're invited!)

Our one-day workshop will serve as a true “work” shop in which we will attempt to geographically determine where the jobs are now, where projects are planned, and what the actual employment opportunities are in our eight county region.  At the end of the day we want to have enough data to create an online, interactive GIS based map that represents what, where and when clean energy jobs are available in the San Joaquin Valley, what training and certifications are needed at each site, and where training is available. 

The ideal attendee for the event is a person familiar with the business plans of you organization or involved in planning and permitting for clean energy projects—where contracts will be, number of jobs, length of contract, training and certification needed.  We want to take a broad view  on clean energy: efficiency, solar, wind, water, biofuels, weatherization, green building, and more! Please mark your calendars and join us:

Thursday, November 15, 2012
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Small Business Development Center Regional Network in partnership with the US Small Business Administration
550 East Shaw Avenue, Suite 100
Fresno, CA  93710-7702

Please RSVP to and please forward this to those you think would benefit from participating.

If you have questions or would like more information on this event please contact Courtney Kalashian, (877) 748-0841 or  

photo credit: SenatorMarkUdall via photopin cc

Meeting to focus on generating jobs in energy, manufacturing & logistics

Jobs are a big deal in California's economically hard-hit San Joaquin Valley.

To one group in particular, getting people to work serves as a call to arms. The Regional Jobs Initiative, or RJI, is a public-private partnership begun in 2004 to build an economy better able to weather natural downturns and take advantage of opportunity and expansion.

The RJI has a dozen teams, or "clusters," that focus on various aspects of industry. One of the most exciting -- at least from our perspective at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization -- is the cluster involved in analyzing and improving the region's manufacturing, logistics and energy prospects.

That group meets from 2 to 5 p.m. June 11 at San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, 1990 E. Gettysburg Ave. in Fresno to dicuss the latest development plans and opportunities.
Mike Dozier from the Office of Community and Economic Development at California State University, Fresno will launch the meeting, while Doug Svensson, Trish Kelly and Kathie Studwell from consultant Applied Development Economics and others provide details of their latest findings, research and opportunities.

Carole Goldsmith, vice chancellor of educational services and workforce development at West Hills Community College District, will provide the latest details from the Central California Community Colleges Committed to Change, or C6, project. The goal of the C6 effort is to build an industry-supported common curriculum among the Valley's community colleges that prepares students for immediate hire.

There will be break-out meetings that address opportunities for growth, trends, issues and other regional and local initiatives. Another topic addresses key gaps in work force, infrastructure, financing, innovation and regulatory issues.

Group discussion will seek to identify the top two or three priorities for cluster initiatives and determine what will it take to realize the opportunities.

Also on the agenda are next steps for the San Joaquin Valley Cluster Action Plan and its implementation. Participation is welcome.

Dozier's group and partners are convening a series of meetings throughout the Valley with stakeholders, including employers and partners, to identify key competitiveness issues and opportunities for innovation and growth, and develop strategic action recommendations to “capture the value chain” for the region’s key clusters.

Meetings will address the health and wellness, energy, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and water technology clusters. The Valley-wide Economic Summit in March 2012 developed recommendations for the Food and Agriculture Value Chain, including food production, processing, support and distribution.

An action plan and implementation strategy is scheduled to be completed by July 2012. Project contacts are Dozier at or Kelly at

Solar industry brushes off setbacks & powers ahead

The nation's solar industry is expected to grow 24 percent next year.

That's the conclusion of the National Solar Jobs Census 2011, produced by the nonprofit Solar Foundation and Cornell University. The 68-page report says that as of August 2011, the U.S. solar industry employed an estimated 100,237 workers, up 6.8 from a year earlier. That compares with .3 percent growth over the same period in the U.S. employment rate.

About a quarter of those employed by the solar industry, 25,575 -- by far the most for any state, worked in California. Colorado with 6,186 workers came in second and Arizona with 4,786 came in third.

It's good news for an industry pounded by the political fallout brought on by the bankruptcy of solar equipment maker Solyndra, which had received a $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. Additional bankruptcies by SpectraWatt and Evergreen Solar didn't help the perception.

Ulicia Wang of says even First Solar, known for low-cost production, "posted a big drop in earnings during the first half of this year."

Adding to the positive tone, General Electric has announced a $600 million investment in its solar manufacturing sector by adding a plant in Aurora, Colo. The move means 355 jobs and panels commercially available from the facility by 2013.

GE officials say material produced at the factory will be more efficient, lighter weight and larger than conventional thin film panels, reducing costs and speeding payback.

Some of this has to do with falling costs industry wide. Power purchase agreements offered by installers are influencing more commercial businesses, municipalities and and homeowners to chose solar. These offset high installation costs and enable building owners to benefit right away with reduced energy bills.

"The unprecedented growth of the industry is providing much needed job creation despite an historic economic and workforce downturn," the report says. "The optimism of solar employers in the midst of these conditions suggests that job growth will continue for years to come."

Love American Style: Clean energy could solve the jobs crisis

"Love, American Style" presented life in simple terms.

Boy meets girl, faces dilemma then figures out a resolution. All in 5 to 10 minutes, with laugh track and hip music.

Apply the philosophy to the U.S. economy and two of the most powerful people in the Republic, and it would go something like this:

Speaker of the House John Boehner: "These excessive regulations are killing us. Corporations can't compete, they're afraid to expand domestically and my mother in law is coming to town."

President Obama: "John ... May I call you John?"

Boehner: "Why not? I'll call you Barry."

Obama: "John, this jobs problem has got to be addressed. Both sides of the aisle are suffering. We can’t solve all our nation’s woes. But we can help."

Boehner: "Gotcha Barry. I'll let you in on a little secret."

The pair walk to background, music cues up. They return, smiling knowingly.

Obama: "You got it John. I'll get Michelle to take your mother in law on a tour of the Pentagon."

Boehner (grinning hugely and looking a little sentimental): "Let's put America to work. Barry, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Reality is a lot more complex

Ah, if only it were so easy. But it's not. The real unemployment rate, including underemployed and those who have stopped looking, appears to be closer to 16 percent, according to John Cassidy of the New Yorker. And there's little hope on the horizon unless something as far-fetched as I have presented actually takes place between the two political factions that run our beautiful country.

Jobs are a big political hot potato right now. We need more. Government policy can help the process, but the private sector creates opportunity.

A straight-talking Chicagoan like Slats Grobnik might say something like, "Try clean energy. We can't keep polluting everything or our kids will suffer. Figure it out. Jobs will follow."

Always bet on green

Clean energy shows huge promise. Study after study has shown it has potential to put hundreds of thousands to work in a variety of tech, research, white collar and blue collar jobs.

Pollution and climate change will begin to assert tremendous pressure on industry, lawmakers and the everyday Joe Sixpack. Nobody wants to foul this great planet. Most -- excluding megalomaniacs and you know who you are -- just want a decent job for a decent rate of pay and a chance to raise healthy, happy families. (Again, I'm not talking about people who want to take over the world, like Pinky and the Brain.)

Give it a few years and I believe even fossil fuel "energy" companies will see the need to accelerate development of cost-competitive clean energy and establish market share. It's there.

My co-worker, veteran reporter Sandy Nax, offered this proposal in his post "Energy Efficiency Could Be the Next Big Thing."A large-scale campaign to cut energy costs would create jobs and save businesses and homeowners billions, or even trillions of dollars -- which could then be reinvested or otherwise directed into the economy," Nax writes.

Back in the Beltway

Obama's proposed American Jobs Act focuses heavily on launching massive infrastructure improvements, hiring teachers and giving tax credits to companies that hire the unemployed. The idea, Obama says, is "to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working."

Boehner's response? Tepid.

But he does agree with Obama on one thing. Boehner says in response to Obama's address to a joint session of Congress, "American families and small businesses are hurting, and they are looking for the White House and Congress to seek common ground and work together to help get our economy back on track."

Obama says, "We can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy."

Plans, plans everywhere

Republicans have a blueprint for economic growth and job creation – Plan for America’s Job Creators. Its focus: removing government barriers to private-sector job growth.

Boehner says, "The proposals the president outlined ... merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well."

Obama sounds conciliatory, although in his address he repeatedly called for Congress to pass his plan. He did say that every proposal laid out has been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past.


Maybe members of both parties ought to visit Sesame Street. A heart-to-heart with Big Bird on why pollution is bad might inspire a green jobs focus.

I'm not talking about big feed-in tariffs to make renewable energy competitive. Rather, my thought is that the government free up business to pursue the greatest efficiencies of all and superior energy production from solar, wind, hydro and the rest. Programs like those by the U.S. Department of Energy to provide grants for promising technology ought to be continued, perhaps expanded.

Katie Fehrenbacher of speculates if the meltdown of Solyndra, which received a government-backed loan of $527 million and is under FBI investigation, could sour the administration on pursuing a clean energy agenda.

"But such a high-profile black eye could make the administration shy away from touting the industry publicly, at least for a while," she writes.

Let's stay off 'The Road'

I hope not. Clean energy is worthy of attention. The alternative is something out of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," dark skies, no food and predatory humans.

I prefer this passage from Obama's address: "No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Apple pie, flannel and bald eagles all the way. Just don't call me Shirley.

Clean energy jobs: Could Slats Grobnik have figured it out?

When legendary Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko wanted to dig deep into a meaty subject, he'd ask Slats Grobnik's opinion.

This usually took place over beers down at the bar.

Slats, fictitious but possibly based on a composite of Royko pals, would give an unvarnished everyman opinion. This week he'd likely say, "Congress? As if they've got a snowball's chance of fixing the economy.

Grobnik's take on the economy

"We need jobs. Mel's wife's car broke down. He's not getting enough business at the diner to pay the mechanic. The mechanic's not ordering parts from Irish Lou. Lou's thinking about closing shop.

"Look at me. I'm still on my first beer, and it's about time to go home. What kind of austerity plan is that?"

Grobnik didn't sugarcoat. He made it real. He gave Royko the essence of an issue.

Straight-up perspective

I don't have a Grobnik, but I do believe the economy could use his straight-up analysis. The economy is so complex these days that just a quick update of Wall Street daily turmoil requires international monetary background.

People like Grobnik care more about finding a way to keep their houses from foreclosure or families fed more than bank bailouts, tax breaks or other government manipulations.

They just want jobs, not daydreams.

The Great Depression had World War II to bail it out. The war was drastic and deadly but hugely effective in getting the American machine firing on all cylinders. Our more recent forays into the Middle East have proved more financially draining than effective.

Mitch Yossarian weighs in

My version of Grobnik is a friend at the health club. (Yep, health club. Royko would shake his head with disgust.) Mitch Yossarian, a fictional Fresno, Calif. developer, mentioned high-speed rail. He just returned from a trip to Europe crossing more than 200 miles of the continent from Brussels in less than an hour.

"In California, it won't pay off right away. But all sorts of things would grow around the stations," Mitch says. "Plus, it creates jobs."

I nod, then mention solar projects. "Certainly," Mitch says.

Give the sun a shot

Solar is about to catch fire, metaphorically, in the San Joaquin Valley. Developers have proposed thousands of acres of photovoltaic panels to capture the energy of the sun. Once started, these projects should spur spin-off activity with each solar dollar multiplying at least four-fold as it circulates.

Angel, the out of work farm hand, could get a job after completing the Proteus Inc. solar training program. He'll be able to keep the car. He'll go out to eat.

Solar, like anything in the renewable energy realm, remains controversial. I just spotted a political cartoon that showed officials ready to unplug a generator that symbolized tax dollars. That generator fueled workers putting up solar panels.

But solar is nearing parity with other forms of electricity. Soon it won't need any subsidy to compete. Nor will wind and a host of other forms of clean or cleaner energy.

Energy efficiency works too

Already the value of energy efficiency has stormed Wall Street, creating an entirely new sector of jobs under the sustainability banner. U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program for either new construction or retrofits of buildings is growing and shows no sign of wavering.

Energy efficient buildings just cost way less. The Empire State Building is a shining example. For about $13 million in "energy specific measures," owner Anthony Malkin told Christina Nunez of National Geographic he reaps $4.4 million in annual savings. The measures were part of a larger $550 million upgrade to the New York landmark. The building rates a LEED gold.

Stories like that inspire others.

Energy efficiency by itself won't pull the country out of recession or inspire Grobnik, or my friend Mitch, for that matter. It will put plumbers, electricians and construction types to work, however. And that's the important part.

Headed in the wrong direction

But the economy's going to need more. I came across a story on National Public Radio's All Things Considered during which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is quoted as saying the United States lost its way the past decade.

"We misread our environment," he tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "We thought the Cold War was a victory and we could put our feet up."

However, lifting the Iron Curtain and normalizing relations with former foes tossed another 2 billion people into the world economy competing at every angle with U.S. ingenuity, says Friedman, pitching his new book, "That Used To Be Us."

Now those competitors are just running faster, he says.

Something from D.C.?

Solutions to the jobs crisis will be bandied about Washington, D.C. for many months. I don't hold out too much hope for government-generated help. Friedman says curbing political gridlock would do wonders. That feels like saying maybe pigs could fly.

President Obama is expected to propose a tax credit to create jobs, but it's likely to get nothing but scorn from across the aisle. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who says he spent more than 25 years in the private sector for street cred, unveils a 160-page jobs plan that even the Wall Street Journal says is "surprisingly timid."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a pitch that may resonate with voters but is sorely lacking in substance. In a recent conversation with Sean Hannity he says, "You free the entrepreneur, the small business man and woman, or for that matter the Wall Street investor, from the over-regulation and the over-taxation and Americans will go to work tomorrow."

Sounds good. But I recall what happened the last time we freed Wall Street and got toxic mortgage soup and a global financial meltdown. My house went from a $269,000 2005 sale price to a value of about $120,000 (maybe).

Keep it real & green

I'm putting my faith in green. We've got an army of entrepreneurs motivated not only by making money but making the world a better place. The spiraling costs of pollution will become frighteningly obvious very soon, making everything clean energy more valuable.

And that will create jobs. Sustainable jobs. Different jobs.

I just wonder what they will be. And whether there will be enough to go around.

It's the economy; Energy efficiency gains big believers

Bill Clinton said it best: "It's the economy, stupid."

The former president reiterated his economy comment in a piece in Newsweek, offering energy efficiency measures as several of 14 ways to jump start the U.S. economy and create jobs.

He's hardly the first. The corporate sector, utilities and governments are swapping out old lighting and inefficient energy-hungry systems like crazy. Why? It saves money.

This rapid embrace of energy efficiency over the past couple years has a lot to do with money. IBM says it's saved $50 million since 2008 through energy saving and conservation measures. "Bottom line; it pays dividends," the company said in a statement.

Converts are signing up in droves. Wal-Mart, an early believer in sustainability, played a big part in expanding the movement's reach. For instance, the retailer has provided more than 100,000 of its global suppliers with a sustainability survey and encourages them to embrace energy efficiency policies.

Utilities also are playing a major part, especially in California where representatives work one-on-one with clients to install retrofits and save money and kilowatt hours. While they are somewhat inspired by financial incentive, most of these reps have become some of the best educated on how to adopt energy-saving measures for the least amount of money.

Efficiency-aware utilities are hardly limited to the Sunshine State. On the north side of the continent, Yukon Electrical Co. and Yukon Energy launched an innovative program with Ottawa, Ontario-based One Change, a nonprofit that encourages people to adopt environmentally friendly behaviors, including energy efficiency.

One Change is helping the utilities get feedback from residents in far-flung places like Carmacks, Teslin and Dawson about what conservation measures they think will work in their communities, said Sara Haskill, the organization's marketing manager. Many of the communities in the program "are quite isolated and have limited resources. Yukon is also not hooked up to the North American grid."

But people who live in these harsh lands know better than most what works and what doesn't. When it's 50 below, a poorly insulated house requires three and four times what a super-insulated house needs in terms of heat. Northerners also tend to be quite careful (one mistake and you're a human Popsicle) and imaginative.

"We are definitely looking forward to hearing what the people in Yukon have to say," Haskill says. "We are expecting some innovative thoughts. Stay tuned to our web site/twitter/facebook in the coming months."

Who knows? The next big idea that creates 100,000 jobs might come from a Canadian in Old Crow.

In the meantime, here are some more traditional measures:

1. Lighting. Go with compact fluorescents, T8s or even T5s, using digital ballasts. Install occupancy sensors. Try LEDs. Their price is dropping. I bought my first bulb last week.

2. Insulation. Load up. HGTV's Mike Holmes tells his viewers to go overkill, R-40 in ceilings or more. Weatherize. I insulated my floor last winter. California home didn't have a thing. Reduces cooling costs, too.

3. HVAC. Yeah, it's expensive, but newer and more efficient air conditioning units or furnaces pay for themselves. Seal up existing duct work or add new stuff.

4. Electric motors. In this category, I'm thinking pumps and other items that draw a lot of power. Go with premium efficiency or variable frequency drive.

5. Roofs. Paint 'em white. Go with a cool roof if you can afford it. The savings payback works. Clinton offers up this one as well.

Speaking of Clinton, he's got a couple more in his Newsweek piece.

6. Copy the Empire State Building. The iconic structure is the epitome of energy efficiency these days after a costly makeover by its owners. The building now stands as a monument of how to successfully retrofit structures erected far before we came up with the concept of greenhouse gas or net-zero.

7. Utilities. Get them in on the energy efficiency retrofit action, Clinton says. "You wouldn’t even need banks if states required the electric companies to let consumers finance this work through utility savings."

And diversify. Waste Management, the company that hauls trash for many of the nation's population, is no stranger to clean energy. Waste Management pioneered landfill gas technology 20 years ago and recently cranked up renewable energy generation power plants McMinnville, Ore. and Arlington, Wash.

"These projects show Waste Management's increasing focus on green technologies that extract value from waste," said Paul Burns, a company official in Pacific Northwest, in a statement. It's efficient.

Analysts often advise clients to institute efficiency measures first. Then, they say, there's the option of adding renewable energy.

But I'll wait for the advice from the folks of Old Crow, via One Change. Last I checked on the web cam there was some work going on down from the John Tizya Center. The community is northeast of my old stomping grounds in Fairbanks, Alaska in the Yukon on the Peel River. People who live there are no doubt efficient, and tough.

Photo: Screen grab from the Old Crow, Yukon Territories web cam.

Falling solar and LED prices generate green jobs

The cost of clean energy is dropping.

Prices for solar panels are declining, and analysts and industry insiders believe solar energy generation will reach cost parity with fossil fuels in the next five years.

Joining solar's trek to affordability are light emitting diodes, better known as LED lights. For instance, San Joaquin Valley clients of an LED street light replacement program got better rates and will be able to replace more inefficient high-pressure sodium fixtures because of better prices offered by suppliers. And, yes, these are lights that meet federal Buy American requirements.

Big deal, and this has come in just the past 12 months or so.

President Obama singled out LEDs during a visit to a Cree Inc. plant in Durham, N.C. on June 13, 2011. Cree employs 5,000 manufacturing the lights and plans to add a new 400,000-square-foot facility and a second production line that will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"At Cree, you’re putting people back to work in a field that has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new businesses right here in America – and that’s clean energy," the president said.

The tour was part of an effort to address the nation's economic slide by meeting with the business leaders on the president's Jobs and Competitiveness Council. Obama got input from business leaders and presented ideas to accelerate job growth.

Obama may be getting beat up on the economy right now, but he staged his photo op in a sector of the economy he believes in. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act under his watch contributed $3.2 billion to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, mostly for the installation of energy efficiency retrofits, the most cost-effective clean energy investment.

Prices for LED lights remain high, but they're coming down significantly. I purchased a new 9-foot umbrella for my backyard outdoor table from a Clovis hardware store for $90. It was a good deal, but I had no idea it came with a solar panel that powers several configurations of LED lights. They're not overly bright but perfect for evening dinners. My son can't get over how cool they are.

Expect more products like that. At this point the LED replacement bulbs rated for exterior use would cost me $40 apiece. So I still use cheap incandescents. But the prices will drop.

That means it's likely manufacturers like Cree will be ramping up.

Phillips Lighting CEO Zia Eftekhar told Martin LaMonica of at the May 2011 LightFair industry conference in Philadelphia that the company expects half of its sales will be LED-related by 2015.

And SolarCity received an investment of $280 million from Google, giving it the chops to cover rooftops with solar panels. The money goes to a fund that enables homeowners to lease solar installations or sign power-purchase agreements for the energy produced on their rooftop solar systems.

From my perspective, Obama's on the right track, but he's still got a way to go as far as others are concerned. Republican candidates for president are tearing him up in the press. Even Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Clinton, wants more.

"The President has to have a bold jobs plan, with specifics," Reich wrote in the Christian Science Monitor. "Why not exempt the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes for the next year? Why not a new WPA for the long-term unemployed, and a Civilian Conservation Corps for the legions of young jobless Americans?

Bold? Specifics? Heck, clean energy appears to be doing pretty well on its own, with help from assorted rebates and true believers, of course.

The U.S. Solar Institute reported that solar in 2010 employed about 93,500 people and that growth in 2011 is expected to be 26 percent, tacking on another 24,000 jobs. Not huge, but the sector is surpassing steel, reports.

Expect more in LED lighting, wind and maybe even geothermal. The jury remains out on biofuel.

Photo: President Obama at LED plant flanked by Chuck Swoboda, chairman and CEO of Cree Inc., left, and Matthew Rose, chairman and CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, right. Courtesy White House blog.

Proteus develops work force for Valley's solar industry

If it's solar and in the San Joaquin Valley, Hector Uriarte Jr. probably knows about it.

Likely, he's been aware of the project ever since somebody mentioned it over coffee during the planning stages. Knowing about solar is one of his chief directives.

Graduates of Visalia, Calif.-based Proteus Inc.'s solar training program depend on his connection with the fledgling clean energy industry for potential jobs. In the past year, about 175 students from the economically battered Valley have completed the Solar Photovoltaic Design & Installation program, learning everything from hands-on technique to theory.

One thing Uriarte has found is that finding jobs -- at least at this point in the industry's evolution -- is far from simple. About 65 percent of his graduates have found work in the field. He'd like, of course, to make that 100 percent.

But "we're working with an emerging market that hasn't emerged," he said.

Companies have big plans in the Valley, with anecdotal evidence of at least several dozen projects of multiple sizes. So far though, most of the large-scale commercial solar installations remain on paper.

One of the larger is a 400 megawatt array just east of Interstate 5 near Tranquillity in Fresno County that would be built in phases, and could contain up to 2.5 million solar panels sprawled over 3,500 acres, according to a Sandy Nax post. Another, a proposed western Kern County project, is on land that couldn't be farmed from lack of water.

The latter project won the approval of the Bakersfield Californian editorial staff, who wrote, "It's welcome news that Kern County supervisors have given their blessing to a 6,047-acre solar project between Taft and Interstate 5. The 700-megawatt project positions photovoltaic solar panels on 4,868 acres."

That means jobs. But forecast construction remains more than a year on the part of the Tranquility project, proposed by San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy.

In the meantime, a trained work force is under its own form of construction. Uriarte says the graduates of the Proteus program land a job at the low end of the skill spectrum, usually as installers on small crews of four or five people.

Big projects require multiple crews. Crew members have varying degrees of skill and status within the company. Uriarte says the more work, the more experience and the greater the opportunity for advancement within the industry.

Many future solar projects in the commercial spectrum may be for specific needs. For instance, the city of Atwater, Calif. was considering a solar array to defray the massive costs devoured during the summer season by water pumps. Solar at the site could drastically cut electricity bills.

Other cities and counties may consider going the route. The California Energy Commission is developing a potential new program that would provide local governments with planning and permitting assistance for renewable energy. Dubbed RP3, the idea won the support of the group, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, which has as one of its directors Larry Alder of Google Inc.

Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture, said the program "has the potential to have a measurable impact."

Solar is coming. When remains a big question as does how. Al Weinrub, who has penned "Community Power: Decentralized Renewable Energy in California," believes that businesses should -- and likely will -- yield their rooftops to solar panels to defray energy costs.

Talking to Proteus Inc.'s solar instructor Rick Gonzales recently, it was hard not to feel optimistic. The former human resources executive exudes positive vibes and believes in what he teaches.

He's passing that onto his students. And if they absorb just 15 percent of that (about the amount of energy a solar module absorbs from the sun), the San Joaquin Valley will definitely be worthy of the University of California, Merced's designation of a "solar valley."

Photo: Proteus Inc. students learn the craft.

Project seeks to inspire a new generation to seek green fortunes

This video highlights San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization's work in the Valley Legacy Grant.

The funds come from the Workforce Investment Act, and SJVCEO's role, although small, is to help teach people about clean energy. We're working with teachers, institutions and the private sector to help provide an educated work force ready for an emerging industry.

For a definition of the grant, I'll defer to this recently published report by our partners at the Office of Community and Economic Development at California State University, Fresno.

Mike Dozier, secretariat for the Office of Community and Economic Development, explained the reason why this effort is important in his introduction to the report: "As the San Joaquin Valley is facing difficult economic times, it has become more critical than ever before that we as a region continue our collaboration efforts. Through the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, the public and private sectors are driving toward improving the quality of life for our residents."

The San Joaquin Valley as a whole has an unemployment rate nearing 20 percent, and that figure just represents those still on the books looking for work. The reality is likely much worse.

Here at the SJVCEO, we believe the clean energy sector is a potential game changer and we're trying to do what we can to inspire folks to jump on the entrepreneurial band-wagon and figure out how to make the Valley a kingpin in an emerging industry.

"The purpose of Valley Legacy is to bring the San Joaquin Valley’s K-12 system, higher education and work force investment board systems into alignment to better prepare people for occupations in high-growth industry sectors in the San Joaquin Valley," the report says.

Those sectors include:
  • Agribusiness, including food processing and biotechnology
  • Water technology
  • Renewable energy
  • Manufacturing
  • Supply chain management
The report continues: "In the current K-12 system, young people receive an education that is designed to maximize success in passing standardized tests. That’s a worthy goal; but most students come out of high school with no preparation for careers in the Valley.

"Most of those who don’t go on to college end up at some low-paying, dead-end job. Some students then go to the County Workforce Investment Boards, which act as a 'second-chance' system to train people for jobs with career advancement; but the WIBs receive funding to assist only a small percentage of those who apply.

"What needs to be improved is the 'first-chance' system. High-school students need to graduate with options: the option to go to a four-year college; to go to a community college; enter directly into the Valley workforce; or even to start their own business."

We think it could work. Advances in biofuel technology, increasing demand for solar power, fossil fuel price boosts and overall escalating consumption of electrical power make clean energy a worthy pursuit. With advances, much of it may be on par price-wise with traditional energy sources or even less.

Clean energy is bigger than birthdays

I turned 50 today.

It's memorable for a number of reasons. For one, it means I'm the age Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon made fun of as Sally O'Malley in quite a few high-kicking bits.

But the achievement, the coming new year and the birth of my second grandchild five days ago has gotten me to think even more about the big picture, the grand scheme. And not so much my role in it but how everything shakes out. 

Real existential, almost Kierkegaardian?

Not really. My thoughts are more practical, running to subjects like the economy and jobs. Here at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, my coworker Sandy Nax and I were just discussing a recent article about how the Valley's technological advances in water-saving irrigation methods could draw the interest of venture capitalists.

Our conclusion: Why not? We've got the know-how, the farmers who don't know how to say, "I can't," and research and development resources at the International Center for Water Technology at California State University Fresno and at the University of California campuses of Merced and Davis.

And irrigation is just a piece of this new potential frontier. For months, Sandy's been talking up how the San Joaquin Valley is poised perfectly to be a leader or even center of the emerging clean energy industry. We've got the land, the know how and the sun. We've got electrical transmission lines crisscrossing the region, big enough to take on any biogas, biofuel, solar or wind (in Tehachapi's case). We've got a growing cadre of academics chomping at the bit to create the next big thing and a work force hungry for decent jobs.

Sure, other places have that too. Hard-bitten Detroit would likely challenge Fresno to a slugfest to land a prime project. But after working with Valley leaders from Arvin to Riverbank, I believe we've got an edge when it comes to government leaders who can work together to get things done.

The Valley has been on its own for generations. Its people know how to do more with less. Unfortunately, innovators often have had to go elsewhere to pursue their dreams.

The beauty of this clean energy business is that the resource is right here. All that sun could grow energy rather than electricity bills from overtaxed air conditioning units. The land could prove a testing ground for irrigation systems that can produce crops despite water shortages and arid conditions.

So I'm 50 (as in "Book 'em Dano.") My best friend says we're now almost as old as dirt, and my body hurts way more after a long run than it used to. I figure I have at least another 20 years before my wife parks me in the used husband lot, and in that time I believe this Valley could do big things. Like clean up the air while it shows the world how it's done.

Why not?

CA guv wins EPA award, but what's next for clean energy?

The Governator may be going the way of the "Expendables," but down the road he's likely to be remembered for his progressive clean energy policies.

From my perch on the nonprofit San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization porch, his efforts, highlighted by his move to create California's Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring the state to develop regulations that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, look pretty remarkable.

We call the governor's measure AB 32. While controversial, many in industry have accepted its consequences. Utilities are increasing their purchase of green-sourced power, and solar and wind farms are getting the green light with increasing rapidity.

Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger received a huge slap on the back from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when the agency gave him its Climate Change Champion Award.

Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, lauded Schwarzenegger, for his "extraordinary vision and leadership as an early, ardent and articulate champion in the defense of our planet against global climate change."

The governor's progressive vision is matched by many -- from the ranks of bureaucracy to homes and businesses on Main Street. The desire to pay less every month for electricity or breathe cleaner air is not really a partisan issue. Perspectives may be flavored by blue or red leanings, but the average family tends to maintain common ground on quality of life and what leaves the bank account.

Blumenfeld acknowledged that. "The environment does not know political boundaries. It was created in a presidency of the Republican Party. And we need to encourage that bipartisan support." (Forty years ago by President Richard M. Nixon, by the way. I still have my "Nixon Now More Than Ever" button.)

Blumenthal did say that comes with "huge political risk," but underlined the importance of forging political common ground to solve the increasingly complex and costly environmental issues associated with our current love affair with fossil fuels.

I'm as much of the problem as anyone. I enjoy a comfortable temperature in my office and at home and drive a car, but then I live in California which has a one-person, one-car requirement. I love the gasoline engine. There's nothing like the sound of my 1974 Superbeetle wasting some kid's tuner.

Schwarzenegger took up the challenge of encouraging clean energy when many leaders let the issue slip down their list of priorities. Arguably, it's a sure-fire winner with jobs, reduced reliance on smog-creating technologies and energy Independence as just some of the incentives.

But change is not easy. Corporations rely on energy delivery systems based on refined oil. It's cheap, it works and it's still available, despite resources everyone knows to be finite. And fracking for natural gas has unearthed massive potential domestic reserves. (An aside: I tend to believe natural gas to be a clean fuel, but then I'm from Alaska.)

Future leaders will have to take up the cause. Consumers also can do their parts by embracing the recent wave of energy efficiency products on store shelves and realizing that smart meters can be used for good, not evil.

In his speech accepting the EPA award, Schwarzenegger talked about blanketing the many warehouses in the state with solar panels, being annoyed with China about bragging about its wind-power efforts and California's clean-tech accomplishments.

On the subject of China, he won a round of applause when he said, "So now we broke ground on the biggest in the world and it's bigger, much bigger than theirs, so I'm very happy about that."

The governor said California has out-sized pull. "We are this little, tiny spot but the power of influence that we have is an equivalent of a whole continent," he said.

We should keep that in mind. Here at SJVCEO offices, we recently experienced an example of the increasing interest in energy efficiency. Co-workers Courtney Kalashian and Maureen Hoff were so successful with a program exchanging old incandescent Christmas lights for strings using light-emitting diodes, which use 70 percent less electricity, that people snapped them all up way faster than expected and keep calling for more.

How the movement to embrace energy efficiency and clean energy will unfold is anybody's guess. My compatriot and fellow ex-newsman Sanford Nax and I talk about this subject continually.

Our topics often concern the future of the industry at large and when it will reach mainstream. Some say it has the potential of an economic gold, or green, rush. Big opportunities. Big jobs.

Yeah, right. Where are they?

So while we ponder such topics, we'll think about people like the outgoing governor of this sunny state of California and wonder what's to come and who will head up the charge to wean this nation from the incredibly costly overseas crude.

Feds Unveil Energy Efficiency Recommendations

We here at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization tout the power of energy- efficiency improvements. Changing windows, adding insulation, sealing air ducts, installing efficient lighting and other upgrades can go a long way toward reducing power bills.

Such improvements - the industry calls them "retrofits" - are the low-hanging fruit of the green-energy movement. It's been shown time after time that a minimum investment can result in maximum returns. At my house in Fresno - where summer temperatures hit triple digits and the air conditioner runs all day - the power bill is the second-largest expense behind the mortgage.

If I can cut energy expenses, I save money. It sounds so simple, but the federal Department of Energy says energy conservation is not a pressing issue for most people. So, the agency is trying to come up with a plan that would encourage energy conservation among homeowners.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unveiled some recommendations for prodding homeowners down the energy-efficiency path, and for guiding the government's future efficiency programs.

  • Sell something people want: identify an issue such as health, financial savings, energy security or comfort to attract public interest;

  • Target the audience and tailor messages accordingly. A blanket marketing campaign won't work;

  • Partner with local organizations and local leaders, and build on existing relationships;

  • Language is powerful: avoid using words such as "retrofit" and "audit." Focus instead on concrete examples, personalize the material and frame statements in terms of loss rather than gain;

  • Contractors can be used as program ambassadors;

  • Make it easy, make it fast: package incentives, minimize paperwork and pre-approved contractors;

  • Repeat the message: advertising studies show that people need to be hit with a message at least three times before being convinced. Energy efficiency can be a tough sell because homeowners have to spend money to reap the benefits. Plan a multilayered campaign;

  • Rebates, financing and other incentives do matter;

  • A well-qualified workforce is essential: promoting a program before contractors can handle the workload leads to disgruntled customers;

  • Be patient: programs need to last for more than a year or two to be successful;

  • Use pilot programs to test strategies.

Lawrence Berkeley's report came out one day after Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a new federal program that offers certified contractors new software to show how much energy homeowners are wasting and to offer low-cost financing to finance improvements.

Dubbed "Recovery Through Retrofit" (thus going against the recommendation listed above to abandon the phrase "retrofit"), the software produces an energy score for each homeowner.

Ethanol Boost Leads To Planned Reopening of Stockton Plant

California's new budget provided a boost to ethanol projects, which means Pacific Ethanol, a producer of ethanol fuel, will reopen a plant in Stockton within 60 days.

The facility in Stockton could reopen in December. A plant in Madera also will reopen if market conditions allow, said Neil Koehler, president and CEO of Pacific Ethanol Inc.

The plants are coming back because the state budget approved Oct. 8 included the California Ethanol Producer Incentive Program, for which the two plants are eligible. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows newer vehicles to use a blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. Previously, the mix was limited to 10% ethanol.

Whether that means, however, that more ethanol will wind up in the mix remains to be seen, as this report says. The vagaries of corn crop and prices also play strong roles.

The Stockton plant has a capacity of 60 million gallons. In Madera, the capacity is 40 million gallons. Koehler did not say how many jobs would be created when the plant reopens.

The company recently restructured financially after filing for bankruptcy protection, which allowed it to sell warrants and raise $35 million in cash, sell minority interest in an energy company for $18 million and retire $17 million in debt.

A dramatic drop in ethanol prices led to the bankruptcy filing, according to The Sacramento Bee.