green jobs

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

The wEEkly Update

For Local Governments and their partners

January 29, 2018


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Upcoming events
Webinar: Creating EE Programs that Better Serve Hispanic Households - Jan 30
17th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference - Feb. 1-3
2018 National Association of State Energy Officials Energy Policy Outlook Conference - Feb 6-9
2018 EPIC Symposium: Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation - Feb 7
Webinar: Using Data to Drive Low Income Energy Solutions: DOE Tool Demo and Case Studies - Feb 8
2nd Annual San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Summit - Mar 14-15
Yosemite Policymakers Conference - Mar 15-18
2018 Business of Clean Energy Symposium - June 4-5
Find more events

Copyright © 2018 Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator, All rights reserved.
The wEEkly update for Local Governments and their partners.

Our mailing address is:
Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator
980 9th St., Suite 1700
Sacramento, CA 95814

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. 

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

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

Rio must bring out the best in clean energy

Protestors in Rio, courtesy
World leaders will debate the merits of sustainable development and a green economy at Rio + 20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to take place in Rio de Janeiro.

Protesters will use the event to highlight injustice.

And something substantive benefiting the environment may actually get done this week. This year's theme is after all "a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development."

However, listening to current U.S. political discourse makes me wonder if anybody in government seriously considers steering toward a green economy.

Wall street bankers, brokers and speculators remain so fixated on profits and bizarre anti-populist goals like killing Dodd-Frank (read Matt Taibbi's "How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform" on, the already weak-kneed consumer protection act, that real values get swept away like last quarter's balance sheet. The concepts of quality of life, a better place for children and continued proliferation of the American way -- where everyone has a chance to make it big -- get nothing but lip service.

A trillion reasons

Robert Redford put it succinctly in a piece on Huffington Post: "We can do better," he writes. His point is that with so much at stake, we need to shift some emphasis to clean energy and eliminate the near "one trillion dollars of subsidies ... handed out to help the fossil fuel industry" each year.

Here's author and activist Bill McKibben's take, from an email he sent to the network: "We know that world leaders aren't likely to achieve a comprehensive climate breakthrough in Rio. But our governments could at least stop sending nearly a trillion dollars a year to the fossil fuel industry. If they did, it would help weaken the coal and oil and gas tycoons, and give renewable energy a fighting chance."

The buzzword now is jobs. The issue is so important people are ready to jump at anything, even a silly pipeline project that taps perhaps the most planet-cooking reserves Earth has to offer.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Redford says, and he's backed up by numerous studies, that every federal or state dollar invested in clean energy gives multiple times the return of fossil fuels. Truly, that's the kind of job that makes sense. Here in California's San Joaquin Valley, we're trying to prepare a ready work force. A consortium of community colleges has banded together to prepare curriculum that meets industry's specifications and enables a green energy renaissance.

Then intent is to create living-wage jobs, rather than positions that perpetuate and exacerbate extreme economic divisions. The middle class is no longer bullet-proof. Incomes are declining.

So how does a green economy fit in? Not easily apparently. If it were up to me, I'd say, "Make the United States energy self-sufficient in 10 years, emphasizing sustainability."

That's not to say we should completely shed oil. The stuff has been quite good to us. Let's just give a shot to making the world a better place, allowing American ingenuity fill in the blanks.

Taking up the challenge

Former Great Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair and a group of international statesmen and business leaders have penned an open letter advocating for a "clean revolution," which they say is essential to "save our economies from the crippling costs of runaway climate change, and create meaningful jobs and enhance energy security."

The group backs a campaign by business and government that calls for the launch in Rio of a campaign by The Climate Group and a range of government and business partners for a "green growth" push out of global recession.

Topical, especially with nearly a half dozen countries in the European Union teetering on financial collapse. Greece elected the conservatives by a squeaky thin margin that allowed the markets a respite. But the future is anyone's guess.

How's the weather?

Kathleen Rogers, president of the Earth Day Network, says there's a chance the Rio + Summit will get results, but "the outlook is bleak."

Normally, I love that pessimistic stuff. It nurtures the curmudgeonly spirit I gained from 24 years in newspapers, pounding out or editing stories about the best and worst in people.

But I'm hoping for more. The summit marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, the country where my cousin Sarah has decided to raise her twins.

Rogers says the U.N. event two decades past generated real optimism and a climate change treaty that "charted a new course to sustainability."

Love at first bite

Implementation is a completely different issue. All that optimism from the first Rio summit had the bite of my toothless and blind 14-year-old dachshund Spike. Oh, he still barks like crazy -- as do those of us who believe in a sustainable future. But we need a pit bull.

Adding some fangs, or even some well-worn teeth, requires agreement and action. I do believe it wouldn't take much. Many are willing to give it everything they've got to extract power from those green dilithium crystals.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Sustainable Energy for All initiative has lofty goals, calling for universal energy access, a doubling of energy efficiency and a doubling of renewable energy by 2030. But it's got allies.

Nothing but wind

The European Wind Energy Association says 75 countries around the world have installed wind turbines and 21 have more than 1,000 megawatts generating energy. It says with the right policy support projections show that wind power will double capacity by 2015 and again by 2020.

"This can be achieved," says Kandeh K. Yumkella, the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in a statement.

After all, what choice do we have. Really?

Want to make money? Enroll in Valley colleges' green training

"Out of work? Need money? Have I got a deal for you!"

That's how many of the pitches go. They arrive unbidden to cell phones and email addresses belonging to eager unemployed or underemployed people all over the country. Often the message is the best thing about the offer, which is usually some pyramid scheme or related dog of a deal.

There is something better. A whole lot better.

Clean and alternative energy may sound a little been there done that, but the sector is looking up. Way up. Projections show steady increases, and market indications point to substantial adoptions of policies in the private and public sectors that increase efficiencies, promote sustainability and bolster alternative energy projects.

Here's a sample of some entry-level wages:
  • Energy auditor - $42,000
  • HVAC installer - $41,600
  • Energy efficiency manager - $52,000
  • Retrofit specialist - $50,000
  • Construction project manager - $60,000
  • Building controls technician - $50,000

Employment isn't up to snuff yet, and companies focusing on energy efficiency, solar and other aspects of sustainability are just getting started here in the San Joaquin Valley. But soon companies will need trained workers who can immediately help them make money and expand their operations. This video by California Community Colleges Economic & Workforce Development gives an example of what  is out there.

The Central California Community Colleges Committed to Change, or C6, project has been established to meet the training needs of what is expected to be a robust sector in the San Joaquin Valley economy. It seeks to create accelerated educational training programs that produce qualified graduates for jobs in critical sectors that industry desperately wants to fill.

Members include Cerro Coso Community College, West Hills Community College District, Fresno City College, Madera Community College, Reedley College, Porterville Community College, Merced Community College, College of the Sequoias and Bakersfield Community College.

The colleges already have training programs in place that address much of the training needed. However, their intent is to make their programs better and increase job placement and retention of students.

Robert Pimentel, interim director of the C6 project, says the program has three components: agriculture, alternative energy and health care. He said the goal of the program is simple, create collaborative and common curriculum between member colleges and connect with industry so the programs propel graduates into the work force.

“We want to know where the jobs are,” he says. And “we want something meaningful for employers.”

C6 will attempt to align programs of participating colleges, mirror some of the curriculum with existing programs and compress training time lines. The goal is to cut the time it takes to get people through the programs while still providing them with accredited classes that can be used for further certifications and degrees.

Pimentel says while efforts have just begun to establish college-industry connections in alternative and clean energy, the C6 program has pulled off a successful effort with its health care component. “If it can be in health care, it can be done elsewhere,” he says.

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

Sustainability: America's emerging green movement

That sound you hear is the sustainability movement accelerating.  America is becoming a deeper shade of green.

 Businesses are expanding their sustainability efforts from board rooms to supply chains and now to energy providers. More companies are flexing their corporate muscle, and pressuring legislators to support efforts to boost use of clean energy and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their so-called "green teams" are moving outside corporate walls.

Mindy Lubber of the advocacy group Ceres writes in this Sustainable Business Blog of a new "business voice", which is also being transferred to employees. She quotes organic yogurt- maker Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirschberg as saying, "We reject the notion that climate and energy legislation is going to be costly. . . Climate action offers economic opportunity rather than economic penalty."

The same blog notes that Nike and 14 other heavy hitters asked Congress to extend the Production Tax Credit that has helped propel wind energy (more here).

More businesses are setting sustainability goals, and in some cases (Hello, Sony) exceeding them. They are raising their sustainability profiles in concert with the military, professional sports and the public, which, according to latest polls, is increasingly linking climate change to the recent wild weather, and is willing to pay more for clean energy.

Meanwhile, prices are dropping, and energy sources such as wind and solar make more sense economically. Solar energy is expected to reach parity with traditional sources of power within  a few years. In fact, there are those who contend it already is at parity in some places. See this.

Energy efficiency also is gaining a higher profile, as evidenced by this huge investment into a new lab at University of California, Santa Barbara, and by this announcement that the telecom industry plans to invest billions of dollars into a sustainable infrastructure by 2016.

Still, the U.S. is without a national energy plan, even as some nations - even those blessed with oil (read about Saudi Arabia here)- forge ahead with renewable energy programs because of dwindling resources. Even Mexico passed a climate-change bill.

But, the pressure to do more is building. The sustainability movement is still in infancy, but a great awakening is under way, says Sam Geil, founder of the International Green Industry Hall of Fame in Fresno, CA.

 "Because sustainability has such a strong economic component, all businesses and the general public are just now starting to understand the overall benefits," Geil says.

He notes the military's burgeoning green efforts. "The War in Iraq is a great example. Transporting fuel was a big challenge, and getting it to the field operations was becoming more and more hazardous. With the use of solar and alternative fuels, the military can actually offset the threats of attacks on the tankers carrying gasoline and diesel fuels."

And let's not forget tomorrow's leaders. Today's young people are growing up with a green tint and more of them, such as my 19-year-old daughter, are seeking out environmental careers. Universities are adding sustainability programs even as they cut back in other areas.

"Young people are growing up with a green mindset and understand the value of recycling, reusing, and rethinking," Geil said.  "The Green Movement is here to stay and growing every day."

Photo of soldiers using a solar blanket

Valley businesses and UC Merced are inducted into the Green Hall of Fame

Five businesses and organizations and four individuals were inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Fresno State University.

SunRun, UC Merced, Green Apple Horse Network, Electronic Recyclers International and Grid Alternatives were the inducted businesses and organizations. The individuals were Ed Begley Jr., Christina Schwerdtfeger, John Shegerian (CEO of Electronic Recyclers) and Alan Tratner, who received Lifetime Achievement awards.

  • SunRun is a San Francisco-based company that offers solar leasing and power purchase agreements.;
  • University of California Merced has six buildings that are LEED certified, and students and faculty are leaders in solar-energy research
  • Geen Apple Horse Network, based in Marin County, helps the horse industry go green, and manages a directory of green products and services;
  • Electronic Recyclers International, a Fresno-based firm that is the nation's largest electronic waste recyclers;
  • GRID Alternatives, an Oakland nonprofit that installs solar panels on low-income households throughout California. The Fresno office has installed solar power systems on more than 300 homes in the Valley, all owned by low-income families
  • Ed Begley Jr., an actor and environmental leader who is chair of the Environmental Media Association and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
  • Christina Schwerdtfeger founded Coto Consulting in 2009 as a woman-owned, small business enterprise to provide environmental consulting services to private and public sector clients throughout the United States. She specializes in multi-media compliance for air, water and hazardous waste, with particular emphasis on greenhouse gases and sustainability.
  • John Shegerian, a serial entrepreneur, is chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers. Prior to his work at ERI, Shegerian co-founded, one of the most successful student loan companies in the country, and founded, a comprehensive, interactive website dedicated to helping those struggling with the disease of addiction, that has become the leading online space for the recovering community.
  • Alan Tratner, international director of FD3′s Green2Gold in Santa Barbara and president of the Inventors Workshop International and Entrepreneurs Workshop, director of the Small Business Entrepreneurship Center in California and former publisher of Lightbulb Journal and INVENT!.
 Also honored were Climate Ride, a nonprofit in Missoula, Mont., that organizes charitable bike rides to support sustainable solutions, bike advocacy and environmental causes, and Aquacue, a San Jose firm whose customers set a baseline, reduce waste and engage the community to reduce water bills and advance sustainability.

Fresno businessman Sam Geil founded the International Green Industry Hall of Fame to recognize  pioneers, leaders, and visionaries who have contributed to the Green movement.

Green businesses gain fame at Fresno event

Nine individuals or organizations with ties to the San Joaquin Valley are semifinalists for induction into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame during a ceremony and conference to be held May 10-11 at Fresno State University. Here's more in a press release from the university.

The VIP dinner will take place Thursday, May 10th from 5-9pm. Featuring live music by Tony Oliveira, wine pairing by Lange Twins Winery, gourmet Mediterranean dinner and dessert, special guest Alan Tratner, keynote speaker Shahram Javey, and a raffle/auction. Tickets available online through May 2nd – limited seating available, expected to sell out quickly!

The $75 Green Package ticket includes the Thursday, May 10th walking tour at CSU Fresno and the Friday, May 11th Ceremony and Conference;
o Walking tour 1-4pm, includes WET incubator, organic farm field and farm market, solar parking, and library. Tour begins and ends in front of the Satellite Student Union Center.
o Friday schedule:
 9:00AM–11:00AM: Registration/ Exhibitors open/ Continental Breakfast – Courtyard;
 11:00AM–1:00PM: Induction Ceremony  – Student Satellite Center;
 1:00PM–2:00PM: Mediterranean Style Lunch – Courtyard;
 1:00PM–3:00PM: Video Interviews with Inductees;
 2:00PM–5:00PM: Plenary Sessions – University Business Center

The Hall of Fame induction is the highlight of the conference. Eighteen semifinalists have been named, including these that have connections to the Valley. They are:

Electronic Recyclers International, a Fresno-based firm that is the nation's largest electronic waste recyclers

Glen Roberts of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Fresno and Bakersfield, who provides export business consulting in the clean energy field

GRID Alternatives, an Oakland nonprofit that installs solar panels on low-income households throughout California. The Fresno office has installed solar power systems on more than 300 homes in the Valley, all owned by low-income families

Kaiser Permanente Modesto, a health-maintenance organization that works to find environmentally friendly products, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and inform public policy to protect the health and safety of employees and members. Kaiser strives to build greener facilities, strives to purchases non-toxic materials and supports sustainable agriculture.

Real Goods Solar, which promotes adoption of renewable energy to reduce the human ecological footprint and has an office in Fresno

REC Solar, a San Luis Obispo-based company with an office in Fresno that specializes in grid-tied solar electric design and installation for commercial and residential customers

Taylor Teter, a Fresno architecture firm that incorporates sustainability into its designs

University of California Merced, where six buildings are LEED certified and students and faculty are leaders in solar-energy research

U.S. Green Building Council, which has a goal of making green buildings available to everyone within a generation.

                                            The remaining semifinalists are:

Alan Tratner, international director of FD3′s Green2Gold in Santa Barbara and president of the Inventors Workshop International and Entrepreneurs Workshop, director of the Small Business Entrepreneurship Center in California and former publisher of Lightbulb Journal and INVENT!.

Aquacue, a San Jose-based firm whose customers set a baseline, reduce waste and engage the community to reduce water bills and advance sustainability.

Climate Ride, a nonprofit based in Missoula, Mont. that organizes charitable bike rides to support sustainable solutions, bike advocacy and environmental causes

Coto Consulting, based in Orange County, provides environmental consulting services to private and public-sector clients

Ed Begley Jr.,an actor and environmental leader who is chair of the Environmental Media Association and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

Green Apple Horse Network, based in Marin County, helps the horse industry go green, and manages a directory of green products and services

H2 Purepower of Chandler, Ariz., which makes hydrogen generators for gasoline and diesel powered engines

Monterey Institute of International Studies, which has a student body from all over the world that is committed to environmental issues

Sunrun, a San Francisco-based company sthat offers solar leasing and power purchase agreements.

Zotos goes green using wind power, others take notice

Zotos International Inc. is a hair-care products manufacturer.

It's also an expert on green energy. The company ranks No. 18 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Top 20 on-site green power generation list because it installed two massive wind turbines to provide energy to its 670,000-square-foot Geneva, N.Y. plant.

"This wind project has helped us transform Zotos into one of the fastest-growing and greenest manufacturers in the global beauty industry," Zotos President and CEO Ron Krassin said. "More and more consumers are demanding sustainable products and as a beauty company, we have a moral imperative to meet this demand. All of us want a healthier and more beautiful planet and we're proud to be doing our part."

Earth Day and green jobs

Zotos took the opportunity of Earth Day 2012 to laud its achievements. And why not? The company's efforts vaulted it into the national cleantech spotlight.

Others appear to be following suit. A report by employment search engine Green Job Bank says postings in the green sector more than doubled in the first quarter. The service says it indexed 36,500 green job postings in the first quarter of 2012, an increase of about 127 percent from the same period a year earlier.

"This increase ... is due to the growth of the green economy," says Bernard Ferret, founder and CEO of the Green Job Bank, in a statement. "It is the proof that the market for renewable energy, clean technology and environmental projects is healthy, and growing at a steady pace."

Hiring across the spectrum

Growth comes despite the spate of bad news in the cleantech sector, highlighted by last year's Solyndra bankruptcy. It indicates that demand for services and product remains. Green Job Bank's top hiring companies include First Solar, REC solar, Solar City, SunEdison and Vestas. Also on the list are energy management companies EnerNOC, Locus Technologies and OPower; energy storage maker A123 Systems; EV automaker Tesla Motors; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and environmental and energy infrastructure companies AECOM, AMEC, Cardno ENTRIX, ERM and URS Corp.

John Davies from focuses on the lighter side of corporate green in a recent post, listing more typical corporate Earth Day activities such as park clean up, electronic recycling and eco exhibitions. He says Microsoft this year even allowed companies to test out electric vehicles, offering a test ride in a Fisker Karma. Nothing overly dramatic. "I wanted to find out whether Earth Day has grown too last century or if it's still meaningful to corporate America," Davies writes.

Green power popularity

Corporations seem to think so. More continue to embrace sustainability.

Performance varies. But the EPA shows in its overall Top 50 list that companies' green power purchases climbed 12 percent to 15 billion kilowatt hours in 2012. No. 2 Kohl's Department Stores increased its power purchases 8 percent to 1.52 billion kWh over 2011, while WalMart boosted its total 231 percent to 872,382,088 kWh to move to No. 3 from No. 12 the previous year.

No. 1 on the Top 50 list for 2012 remains Intel Corp. with an unchanged 2.5 billion kWh of green energy purchases.

Zotos' effort stand out because it installed its own wind turbines, a feat that also earned the company recognition from the American Wind Energy Association for having one of the top on-site wind projects at a U.S. manufacturing company. The turbines, which became fully operational in January 2012, generate about 6.5 million kilowatt hours a year for about 60 percent of Zotos' operational needs. The company plans to purchase the rest of its energy from green sources.

Expect others to follow

On the EPA Top 20 on-site generation list, Zotos' energy generation numbers are overshadowed by the sheer bulk of Kimberly-Clark Corp., the No. 1 company. The Dallas-based consumer products manufacturer of brands like Kleenex, generated 193 million kWh of on-site power. However, Kimberly-Clark's generation accounted for 8 percent of its power.

Can other companies follow the examples set by those on the EPA lists? Anthony Perdigao, Zotos vice president operations and chief sustainability officer, offered this statement: "If we can do it, so can others."

There's definite interest. Megan Connor Murphy, Zotos vice president of public affairs, says the company "has received multiple inquiries from others both regionally and nationally about our wind project and are ready to share our experiences with them."

This clean energy stuff is getting around.

Another post of possible interest:

Green power purchases trend upward

A push to expand the green economy in the West

The first task in identifying opportunities in the green economy is to define what that means. Just what is a 'green economy" anyway, and what careers are included in that?

A new joint report and jobs plan by the governors of three western states and British Columbia says the green economy is more than just a subset or industry segment. Rather, it is the introduction of new technology and processes in all industries that reduce the consumption of scarce natural resources, reduce environmental impacts and improve efficiency.

"The focus should be on the 'greening' of all industries and all sectors, a more broad-based approach that is essential to accelerated investment attraction and job growth," contends the report entitled, "The West Coast Clean Economy".

Not surprisingly, the ramifications of such a technological overhaul are mammoth. In 2010, the clean economy on the West Coast totaled $47 billion and counted more than 500,000 jobs. Considering the population of the combined region was 50 billion, the potential for growth is huge, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said. He said the clean economy could triple by 2020, "given the right policies."

Worldwide, it's huge. A clean economy is the "single most important global opportunity on the medium-term horizon," with revenue expected to reach $2.3 trillion by 2020, according to the study, which was commissioned by The Pacific Coast Collaborative (a joint entity consisting of leaders of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia) and completed by GLOBE Advisors (GLOBE) and the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS).

Not alone

This study reinforces others that contend energy efficiency and green building offer the best employment opportunities. Retrofitting older buildings with the most energy-efficiency equipment and using green construction techniques generate the biggest bank for the buck.

The commercial, institutional, and residential green building market in the US is projected to reach $128.6 billion by 2013, more than double its value of $52.3 billion in 2009. The values include building retrofits and renovation, as well as construction. Annual growth rates could reach 24.3% and 26.5% for the commercial and residential sectors respectively.

Energy-efficiency retrofits represent the “low hanging fruit” in this area, according to the study. That's because money saved on energy costs can be spent elsewhere in the economy. The Edison Foundation's Institute for Electric Efficiency says in this report that the cost of energy-efficiency measures averages 3.5 cents for each kWh saved in the United States. CleanEdge cites that data in this report, and notes that energy efficiency measures are the cheapest source of power.

The Edison Foundation said efficiency programs saved over 112 TWh in 2010, enough to power more than 9.7 million U.S. homes for one year, and avoided the generation of 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Buildings are responsible for more than a third of energy use worldwide, accounting for up to 80 percent of carbon emissions in large urban regions, CleanEdge states. Most U.S. buildings were constructed before 1990 and still use outdated energy technology. "Retrofitting the built environment has become priority number one for energy-efficiency advocates." CleanTech says, citing UCLA data that energy costs could be slashed an average of 22 percent through retrofits.

Finding a job

Energy efficiency is perhaps the most promising employment and growth segment, but The Pacific Coast Collaborative has a whole jobs plan in place, sealed with an MOU. It calls for establishing a green highway, sharing best practices, developing coordinated initiatives and a host of other programs. Other promising opportunities are in the following categories, according to The West Coast Clean Economy and CleanEdge studies, are:

1/ Environmental Protection & Resource Management
a. Recycling;
b. more efficient infrastructure;
c., conservation;
d. restoration of damaged ecosystems;
2/ Clean transportation
a. Electric and alternative-fuel vehicles;
b. enhanced public transit;
c. lower-carbon fuel sources such as natural gas;
3/ Clean energy supply
a. Distributed energy system;
b . Smart grid infrastructure and transmission;
c/ Ehanced integration of energy from clean and renewable sources.
4/ Knowledge and Support
a. Educational institutions for workforce skills development and strengthening centers of excellence that build on the knowledge base of the clean economy;
a/ Municipal waste in the U.S. totals 435 million metric tons each year and two-thirds of the developed world's garbage ends in landfills and incinerators. Waste-recovery technology is attracting financing, strategic partnerships and support.
6/Energy storage
a. Lots of interest, but costs have to decline

Not dead

The CleanEdge report suggests that headlines proclaiming the demise of clean energy are over reaching. The combined global market just for solar, wind and biofuel in 2011 was $246 billion, up from 2010. The industry is experiencing growing pains, and some companies are finding they can't compete with China.

"But clean tech isn't withering on the vine as some would proclaim," CleanEdge says., "But instead is continuing its rapid expansion, witnessed by the growth of green buildings, smart meters, hybrid electric vehicles, distributed and centralized renewables, LED lighting, and a host of other clean-tech breakthroughs that are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. "

Photo: Kings County Unified School District electric bus (the first in the nation) in front of Capitol with director of transportation John Clements

Environmental rap superhero spreads clean energy message

The battle to clean the air and water is expected to be a great challenge, testing the mettle of all who partake.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization crossed paths with one superhero who may turn the tide. Mr. Eco, aka Brett Edwards, attends California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. He came to our attention in 2011 after we spotted his video "Turn Em Out (Official Parody)." At the most recent count, Mr. Eco has 31 videos on his youtube channel that have racked up about 21,000 views.

"You Can't Find Me in the Tub: Official Mr. Eco Parody" is his latest. It unveils his new costume and ecomobile. "You Can't Find Me In The Tub" is done to 50 Cent's "In Da Club" and is off Mr. Eco's parody album, "Get Green Or Die Trying."

Here's how Mr. Eco describes his most recent work: "The song encourages water conservation by using low flow shower heads instead of taking baths. The video was filmed in San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach and Cayucos. It features cameos from Mr. Eco's sidekick 'Lil Nico' and Matt Damon as well of a lot of Brita raising in da club."

Here's a question and answer session Mr. Eco so kindly agreed to:

SJVCEO: What got you interested in green issues and green energy specifically?

Mr. Eco: My AP Environmental Science class my junior year of high school at Clovis West. Without Mr. Mirigian there would be no Mr. Eco! I had a passion for wildlife before that, but I was awakened to the environmental issues in that class.

Mr. (Michael) Mirigian: As a teacher (now retired) we all dream of the day when we discover that a former student has taken to what we expose them and develop it into something of their own interpretation and interest. That is Brett "Mr. Eco" Edwards. While enrolled in my AP Environmental Science course, Brett always demonstrated his ability to "make connections" between all of the topics we discussed. He is a true critical thinker.

SJVCEO: Is there anything that what you’re learning now that could be translated into furthering green activities in the San Joaquin Valley?

Mr. Eco: No doubt what I am learning now could be translated into furthering green activities in SJV. There is a ton of improvement toward sustainability that needs to be made in the Valley, and I hope Mr. Eco can do projects there in the future.

SJVCEO: You come from an area with generally the worst air in the nation. Does that influence what you do as Mr. Eco?

Mr. Eco: It influenced my video Prince of Fresh Air. "" I remember only being able to see certain mountains from Fresno after rainy days growing up. That is ridiculous. The air quality sucks and is going to take a change in the way people commute to make a difference. Asthma amongst children is horrific and it is prevalent in the Valley.

SJVCEO: What’s your major?

Mr. Eco: Business, Entrepreneurship concentration. I plan to make the green "money" to save the green "environment."

SJVCEO: What high school in the Valley did you attend?

Mr. Eco: Clovis West Eagles! I graduated in 2009.

SJVCEO: Who came up with the idea of Mr. Eco?

Mr. Eco: I did with the help of my sister, who is my biggest supporter musically. I used to rap in high school with the persona Mister E. My sister said, "You should rap about going green," after I became an intern for the Green Campus Program at Cal Poly, and I ran with the idea from there.

SJVCEO: Does Mr. Eco have a support team? If so who are they and what are their opinions of this green energy movement?

Mr. Eco: My family is my biggest support team. They support the green energy movement, but I there is a lot of room for improvement at my parents house in Fresno. Mikhail Sarkhosh is my film director, we work really well together and he is a part of the team. He has adopted some sustainable habits; I at least have him thinking about it now especially when we are filming because I make us be as sustainable as possible.

SJVCEO: What is your take on the green energy movement?

Mr. Eco: If I had a million dollars, I would invest it all in wind and solar. I truly believe they are going to take off. We need to get rid of our dependency of coal, oil and natural gas. Period.

SJVCEO: How important is this issue to your generation?

Mr. Eco: Vitally. We are at the point in time where we are on top of a mountain. If we continue our path, we will fall down and kill the earth. If we rethink our path, we can safely travel back down the mountain. We have to learn how to do more with less resources. This Earth can't support 7 billion people with our rate of consumption and resources.

SJVCEO: There’s been a lot of hoopla surrounding green jobs. What are you seeing out there? Are any friends getting hired or internships in the sector?

Mr. Eco: Yes, a lot of friends I have met through the Green Campus Program have graduated and been hired into green jobs. Two examples, one is a sustainable program director for a school district in Long Beach and the other is a consultant and a green engineering firm in San Diego.

SJVCEO: What’s Mr.Eco planning in the coming months & this summer?

Mr. Eco: I am going on school assembly tours this spring! They are part of my "Get Green Or Die Trying" parody album release on Earth Day April 22. This summer, I am traveling to Costa Rica with International Student Volunteers. Also, if I win America's Next Eco-Star I will be traveling to Austria for a sustainability conference.

SJVCEO: What job do you plan to pursue upon graduation?

Mr. Eco: An environmental rap superhero, I shall call him Mr. Eco.

Editor's note: See more about Mr. Eco at

Heading into a sustainable future - or else

Rising gas prices are again in the news - as they usually are when summer approaches - but this time, according to this story, the increase does not stem from demand. Oil is a commodity, and this spike appears to be linked to speculators.

Oil is a huge cost of business, and an increasingly unpredictable one. And it's only going to get worse, a new study suggests, so corporations better get wise and design sustainability into their business plans.

"Fossil fuel markets are set to become more volatile and unpredictable because of higher global energy demand; changes in where fossil fuels are consumed; supply and production uncertainties; and increasing regulatory interventions related to climate change. All companies – regardless of sector, size, or location – will find it difficult to plan for and manage energy costs, especially those related to fossil fuel," consulting firm KPMG International says in this report.

Thus, businesses should become more energy efficient and strategic. KPMG recommends companies use more alternative or renewable fuel sources to reduce their exposure. In addition, airlines and shipping companies, plus plastic and chemical producers that use petroleum as an input, need strategies to address potential shortages and price volatility.

KPMG calls the report a "starting point" for discussion. The company also has a message for those who urge the end of oil consumption: It ain't going to happen.

The energy mix might change, but use of fossil fuels will dominate for years and, in fact, could expand with an increasing world population - at a price. KPMG cites an International Energy Agency study that estimates crude oil prices in the United States will reach $120 per barrel (from $101.85 today) by 2035.

As it turns out, energy unpredictability is just part of the issue facing businesses. KPMG cites 10 "megaforces" that will shape businesses and their actions: climate change; shortage of materials; water scarcity; population growth; urbanization; increased world wealth; food supply and security; ecosystem decline; and deforestation.

Nimble corporations, however, will be able to use this tidal wave of change to their advantage. What creates problem one place often breeds opportunity elsewhere. Money can be made from sustainability. Innovative businesses could reap rewards for addressing needs of growing populations for agriculture, sanitation, education, technology, finance and health care, the report contends:

"Sustainability is increasingly being seen as a source of innovation and growth rather than simply cost reduction and risk management." Here's another report from KPMG on that topic.

As such, more businesses, landlords, schools and communities already are installing sustainable processes into their core operations. The Corporate Responsibility Newsletter has this story on NIKE and other corporate heavy hitters asking Congress to preserve a wind-power tax credit.

Here's one on property owners discovering that going green pays, and another on Steamboat Springs' desire to go waste free. And let's not forget students, who are helping lead the charge to a sustainable tomorrow.

Sustainability: it's here to stay

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."

Hopeful Signs On The Green Jobs Front!

Two recent news items - one an announcement by a manufacturing plant in Fresno and the other a story in the San Luis Obispo newspaper - underline the impact of the emerging solar energy industry in Central California and the western United States. They also help fulfill the promise of green jobs.

First was this: PPG Industries said it will make components for the solar power industry at its Fresno plant. The company said it is the only maker of Solarphire PV glass on the West Coast, which will enhance its ability to serve an industry that is expected to surge in the Southwest and Asia - two regions that have strong potential for new solar projects.

Then there was this: About 400 workers are employed at two solar-power construction sites just west of the San Joaquin Valley. The construction is expected to take about three years.

Read more here and here.

While PPG officials say the current expansion of capacity won't add any jobs to the Fresno plant, who is to say that won't change if solar gains in popularity? PPG is smart to carve out a niche.

Meanwhile, the solar construction jobs in the Carrizo Plain of San Luis Obispo County could be the first of many more in the area. Dozens of other proposals - some of them pretty substantial (check this out) have been approved or are awaiting approval - in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties, in addition to those under way in San Luis Obispo County.

Those proposals combined with projects earmarked for the Southern California desert (think industrial revolution!) could provide construction jobs for the next several years. They also help California meet or exceed its ambitious 33 percent renewables mandate.

Of course, it is unlikely that all of the proposed projects will be approved. Financing issues, conflicts with farming groups and habitat/environmental concerns will probably knock some out, but I wonder if green energy could become a new industry in the Valley and beyond.

Good Resource: Database of University Sustainability Programs

I was poking around the Internet today and stumbled upon this database from the National Wildlife Federation of sustainability programs at universities throughout the nation.

It is fascinating, and potentially a good resource for instructors, students and administrators. Enjoy!

The Green Movement: Defying The Naysayers

Things sure get weird in a campaign year. Statements and misstatements. Lies and half-truths. I-said-this-but-really-meant-that. It's easy to get swept up in the negativity and for positive messages to get lost in all the noise.

But a funny thing is happening amidst the chatter: The green movement is gaining traction despite the naysayers. It's happening at the corporate level, where Ernst & Young is expanding its sustainability business and even devised "renewable energy attractive indices" (China, to no great surprise, is at the top) to track the world's appetite for clean energy.

And it's happening at the local level. My hometown newspaper, The Fresno Bee, today has this story about a proposal for a huge solar project. It's on land that cannot be farmed, and is indicative of what this region could become. Reporter Kurtis Alexander notes, "While the proposal joins nearly three dozen other solar plants pitched in Fresno County, the venture by Recurrent Energy is by far the biggest and underscores the county's standing as a hotbed for solar development."

The politicians may not acknowledge it, but the green movement is a bullet train on the fast track - despite an expected drop in stimulus funds. Ernst & Young puts it best: "A revolution is underway, and the renewable energy industry is adapting to a changed world. "

It's just not renewables. Energy efficiency and sustainability are helping power the train, and corporations are at the wheel. Pike Research projects spending on energy efficiency to increase 50 percent by 2017 as it becomes more important. has more, and makes particular note of Johnson Controls' clogged pipeline of work. Efficiency remains the biggest bang for the buck since buildings such as those in the photo above consume 40 percent of the world's energy. Often, minimum effort can yield maximum results.

Says Ernst & Young: "Global corporations across numerous industries are moving quickly to pursue cleantech revenue opportunities. The revenue opportunities are transformational because 1) they arise from a shift to a resource-efficient and low-carbon economy, and 2) they are changing corporate business strategies." There is more here and here.

The companies realize that efficiency cuts cost - AT&T slashed $44 million - and contributes to a stronger bottom line; that clean tech is a new revenue source; and that it helps corporations meet internal sustainability goals. Fifty-eight percent of the corporations that responded to an Ernst & Young survey said they plan to increase clean tech spending between 2012 and 2014, and 25 percent said their expenditures will remain the same.

As corporations go, so goes the military, which says the nation's dependence on foreign oil is a security risk. And the military isn't alone in that assessment. Check out this video from the Rocky Mountain Institute, which says threats - and not just those related to security - are leading to a national discussion on energy issues.

Of course, change won't happen overnight. Or will it? Technological advancements are coming at a dizzying rate. Costs are dropping rapidly and it won't be long until solar power, for one, achieves grid parity. I'll keep my beret handy, just in case this revolution is around the corner.

Photo of Seattle skyline by Lars Sundstrom

Make my day: 7 reasons to be encouraged about clean energy

The economy may look like it's been on the losing end of a street brawl, but optimism could be lurking in the shadows.

Certainly the mood is glum. The news, when it isn't fixating on celebrity missteps or political scandal, highlights Greek default, an irritated 99 percent and prospects for job creation that appear as likely as J. Edgar Hoover returning to run the FBI.

Maybe I'm biased or I'm watching too many trailers for the new Clint Eastwood film. But I'm seeing things differently.

Perhaps it's just me, or my co-worker Sandy Nax. But we're seeing some pretty positive stuff coming from our perch in the green energy sector.

Reason No.1: Solar flare. Here's a landmark. A San Jose Mercury News post San Jose Mercury Newsmarks the achievement of California reaching 1 gigawatt of installed solar. As reporter Dana Hull says, it's 1,000 megawatts and "roughly the size of two coal-fired power plants."

Sun is good. Coal not so much, even though it's a domestic energy source. Regardless, the news is huge. And solar growth is expected to continue. The reason some solar manufacturers -- think failed Solyndra for a moment -- are having a tough time doesn't have much to do with popularity of the renewable energy.

There's nothing wrong with sales. It's price that's killing these companies. As predicted, the cost of solar and wind prices have dropped, nearing ever closer to energy produced by fossil fuels. Parity it's called.

And it can't come too soon.

Solar is dominating my interest lately partly because I've been swayed by an argument by Derek Abbott, a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia. In a series of YouTube posts, he argues that enough energy from the sun could be easily captured to power the world's energy need of 15 terawatts.

Abbott believes solar thermal is the best option as it is the cleanest to produce. It requires no photovoltaic panels just mirrors and a system for superheating a substance to produce heat and subsequently energy.

Job rating: Excellent.

Reason No. 2: Concentrated or thermal solar. And that leads to this forecast from that concentrated solar is on the verge of becoming a serious contender in the clean energy spectrum. The piece says concentrated solar's simplicity will help sell it to consumers. "Solar thermal has been around for decades and is extremely reliable," CleanTechies says.

The positives are similar to those across the green energy spectrum: Costs are decreasing, state and local governments are getting interested in assisting projects, systems can be applied to commercial buildings, cooling is an option (although I'm still uncertain how that works), more people are getting into the business and innovation is making systems better.

Job rating: There's potential.

Reason No. 3: Solar mountain. Got a landfill? Who doesn't? They're not pretty. However, in Conley, Ga. Republic Services has transformed 9 million cubic yards of trash into a solar energy farm. The solid waste company covered the massive hill of garbage with a geomembrane on which it attached thin-film solar panels.

The panels produce 1 megawatt, but more could be added, according to Silvio Marcacci at The site is one of just a few in the country. However, its success could drive more to adopt the concept.

"A lot of these landfills are built in urban settings, and they’re close to transmission lines," Tony Walker of Republic Services tells Marcacci. “We think this type of system can be built across the country."

Maybe so. There certainly is a lot of garbage.

Job rating: Fermenting.

Reason No. 4: Decentralized energy. I first read of this concept after stumbling across a report by sustainable energy advocate and writer Al Weinrub. He argues that decentralized energy, or putting renewable systems in as many places in a community as possible, generates wealth, spurs economic revitalization and helps adapt to climate change.

Steven Cohen, executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, says in a piece on Huffington Post that decentralized and renewable energy are the key to solving the looming crisis of sustainability. He says that a massive public-private partnership is needed to develop smart-grid, distributed generation technology via tax credit and other government and private sector driven incentives.

"Ultimately, each home and business should be capable of generating, storing and sharing energy," Cohen says. "Solar, wind, geothermal, and perhaps some other technology yet to be invented must be subsidized to make them cheaper than fossil fuels."

He says at some point, the subsidies will no longer be needed.

But change is coming or at least it should. The air just can't take what we're pumping into by way of coal fires, automobile exhaust and general toxic-laden combustion. And that brings me to my next point.

Job rating: Strong.

Reason No. 5: The real cost of fossil fuels. According to the most recent World Energy Outlook report by the International Energy Agency, investing in clean energy now is far more effective than attempting to clean up the mess later.

Eric Wesoff of pored over the report and came up with this quote from Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist: "As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the 'lock-in' of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals."

Wesoff writes: "For every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions."

Succinct point. It makes me wonder how politicians who say they would obliterate any regulations in favor of jobs will be viewed in 10 years. The regulation busters line up on one side of the aisle, but both parties are guilty of promoting ill-fated policies that add to the nation's graying skies.

The jobs that apparently need fewer regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or other agencies are noble but usually controversial. They include mining coal from mountaintops, drilling offshore for oil, tapping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, building a cross-country straw to suck out Canada's oil sand and allowing the hydraulic fracturing.

Job creation can be done other ways. I recall sitting on spit on Nantucket one summer with my brother-in-law. We were inspired by the long delayed Cape Wind offshore turbines. He speculated that President Bush would have produced a far longer lasting legacy had he established just a smidgen of support for alternative energies rather than invading Iraq or even if he did.

Bush had the right idea -- domestic energy security. Just a different way of getting there.

Job rating: Depends on political winds.
Reason No. 6: Energy and fuel efficiency. Energy author Daniel Yergin writes in a piece on Huffington Post about how Boeing's Dreamliner won the hearts of airline executives not with its speed but with its 20 percent better fuel efficiency. "The airlines were voting their pocketbooks," he says.

Nearly every week, another big publicly traded Wall Street powerhouse embraces the cost savings of installing energy efficient lighting and electrical upgrades. And many are taking the concept further, entering the tricky yet individually lucrative realm of sustainability. Big companies that see the light have discovered not only savings in multiple aspects of their operations but have learned to reap the value of the public goodwill that comes with it.

Home builders are another group that has found value in efficiencies. Commercial builders also have come aboard, slowly incorporating building information modeling into design to reduce energy and operations costs with a slew of new technologies and products.

The EPA reports that more than 400 home builders have "committed to meeting the updated and more rigorous requirements for new homes that earn the Energy Star label in 2012." Those builders discovered value by inching closer to homes that use less energy. Net-zero homes may not be far off.

The EPA says that since 1995, about 1.2 million new homes have earned its Energy Star rating, which translates to savings of about $350 million on utility bills. The list of builders includes six of the country’s largest: Ashton Woods Homes, Beazer Homes, KB Home, Meritage Homes, M/I Homes and NVR Inc.

Job rating: Good but depends on consumer acceptance.

Reason No. 7: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This particular topic is close to home for me. I am employed because of stimulus money. My mission these past two years has been to maximize kilowatt hour savings at 36 cities and three counties in California's San Joaquin Valley. On that front, I'm getting closer.

My team and I will get it done. We will help our jurisdictions save money and start them on a diet of energy efficiency and clean energy. My boss says it's pre-ordained.

Others have done it. The 112-page report, "Profiles of Local Clean Energy Leadership: How America's Cities and Counties are Using Federal Energy Block Grants to Create Jobs, Save Energy and Prevent Pollution," is full of stories about how other cities spent their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant allocations.

To me, it made a lot of sense. I've been immersed in this world for many moons, speaking a language of kWh, T8s, VFDs, SEER, LEED and even less interesting terms.

What's great about the report is that it shows cities beaten roughly about the head and shoulders by the economy can navigate the many bureaucratic requirements and restrictions and actually implement money meant to do them good. I hope to pass these success stories onto my cities and counties.

Job rating: Steady.

Yep. We can save energy. We can figure out how to be better stewards of our communities and nation. Every one of the issues I listed translates to development and growth. Some could be really significant. Maybe we could clean that air a bit and get some jobs at the same time.