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State 'green' plan called job creator

October 20, 2008|Marla Dickerson | Times Staff Writer

Tough state mandates requiring Californians to reduce their carbon footprints and use more homegrown renewable energy will create more than 400,000 jobs, help consumers save on their lighting bills and boost the state's economy by $76 billion by 2020.

Those are some of the findings of a study to be released today by Next 10, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental innovation in California.

The report contrasts sharply with the views of some business groups, which have been critical of the state's commitment to cut its global warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. That landmark 2006 legislation, AB 32, has been labeled a job killer by the California Chamber of Commerce.

But the Next 10 report says rigorous efforts to promote efficiency and clean energy will save consumers billions of dollars and make California more energy independent. And, the report contends, the law provides the regulatory certainty needed to spur entrepreneurs to invest in green technology.

A slew of solar, wind and other renewable-energy projects are planned in California, spurred by state mandates requiring utilities to boost their use of clean sources. Some high-technology investors in Silicon Valley are shifting their focus to green tech.

"This is the breakout growth sector of the next generation," said the study's author, David Roland-Holst, a professor of agriculture and resource economics at UC Berkeley. "We cannot afford to miss this market opportunity."

California's per-capita electricity use is about 40% less than the national average, Roland-Holst said, largely because of government-mandated energy efficiency standards for utilities, buildings and appliances put into effect over the last four decades.

Roland-Holst said the lower use has enabled Californians to save $56 billion on energy since 1972. That money was spent in the local economy, he said, instead of on imported oil, out-of-state electricity or building new power plants. The result: 1.5 million additional California jobs with a total payroll exceeding $45 billion.

Roland-Holst calculates that energy innovation required by AB 32 will create 403,000 green-collar jobs over the next 12 years as companies spend big on renewables and energy efficiency. He said that would increase household income in California by as much as $48 billion by 2020 and boost the state domestic product by $76 billion.

Some of the state's leading companies agree with Roland-Holst's assessment that environmental innovation could become a pillar of the California economy.

Santa Clara-based Applied Materials Inc., the leading maker of semiconductor production equipment, has built a thriving business supplying specialty gear to solar manufacturers.

Once a niche for Applied Materials, the solar operation now employs more than 1,000 people worldwide and is expected to generate $3 billion in revenue by 2012, according to Bruce Klafter, a senior director for the company.

"It has been a growth engine for us," he said. "Programs like AB 32 will have a multiplier effect. . . . There will be more beneficiaries" than losers.

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marla.dickerson@latimes.com

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