Note to President Obama: Energy efficiency and clean technology can help jump-start the U.S. economy.
That's the message of a report released today by Next 10, a nonprofit research group in Palo Alto, which says California's experience underscores how the green sector is emerging as a key component of growth.
Among the findings: Green-collar jobs are growing faster than statewide employment. Clean-tech investment in the state hit a record last year, despite steep stock-market declines. California leads the nation in patent registrations for green technology. Efficiency measures pioneered here over the last three decades have created 1.5 million jobs and allowed California businesses to generate many more goods and services per unit of energy consumed than other states.
"California, like the rest of the nation and world, is caught in a financial perfect storm at the same time it has committed to dramatic reductions in global warming emissions," said Doug Henton, co-founder of Collaborative Economics, a Silicon Valley firm that prepared the report for Next 10. "This [data] provides evidence that moving to cleaner and more efficient energy use must be part of the economic solution."
The report contains the first detailed analysis of the number of "green" jobs in California. National estimates have varied widely. Working from a database of known firms, Collaborative Economics concluded that the Golden State had slightly more than 100,000 green jobs in 2007. That's about as many as the biotech sector.
Those green jobs encompass a variety of occupations, including research scientists, wind-energy technicians and solar panel installers. Such positions are growing fast, the report showed. Green employment was up 10% between 2005 and 2007. Statewide job growth was 1% over the same period.
While the industry isn't large enough to be the sole jobs engine that pulls California and the nation out of the ditch, investments in clean energy and efficiency will help spark growth, according to Noel Perry, a venture capitalist and founder of Next 10.
He said he's certain because California has already proved it by adopting the toughest energy efficiency standards in the country. The result is that the state's energy productivity -- energy consumed compared with economic output -- is 68% higher than that of the rest of the country, according to the report.
"If the rest of the country were as . . . productive as [California], America's GDP would be significantly greater," Perry said.
Perry said tough state mandates to boost California's use of renewable energy and lower greenhouse gases are attracting entrepreneurs and funding.
Venture capital investment in clean technology in California totaled $3.3 billion in 2008, more than double the amount invested in 2007. Between 2002 and 2007, 607 green-technology patents were registered in California, the study said. That's more than any other state.