In this economy, every state wants jobs. Green jobs are popular, but frankly, they’ll take them in any color.
A great way to attract renewable energy jobs to a state is to—and this should be obvious—establish a local market. If a state provides incentives for a local solar market, for example, you get on the order of 14 jobs (a year) per MW installed. Installers, engineers, sales reps—those are good jobs, and they stay local. Can’t be outsourced.
But what about manufacturing? That’s a different story. It’s a global market, and every state in the country, and every country in the world, has an economic development department whose sole purpose is to lure manufacturing factilities. In the case of solar, Germany offered a 50 percent unsecured loan. Malaysia offered a 10-year tax holiday. So if you want to bring a plant to your state, you need to realize that any company looking to site a plant will be considering all the offers on the table. Proximity to market matters (especially for big, hard-to-transport items like wind turbines), but it’s not the only thing that matters. To get manufacturing jobs too, you need to add a sweetener.
Arizona provides a great example of how to do it. The Arizona Corporation Commission established the Renewable Energy Standard—with strong solar provisions—and the local solar industry is going gangbusters. Arizona Public Service reports that request for incentives for commercial (i.e. non-residential) solar projects have already exceeded their 2009 allotment, and residential installs are going through the roof. And APS has signed two contracts for large parabolic trough solar plants. Local demand: check.
On the manufacturing side, State Senator Barbara Leff sponsored a bill, SB 1403, to provide tax incentives for new renewable energy manufacturing facilities that bring new, high-paying, high-quality jobs (with health benefits). With the state facing a budget deficit, any tax incentive faced an uphill slog, but she managed to get it passed and the Governor signed it.
Local market + sweetener = green jobs. It’s a simple recipe, and Arizona got it right.
Local leaders are really excited about their prospects, and they should be. Check out this clip from local PBS station about how they are making the most of the opportunity to build a renewable energy economy: