In this issue:
- FITs Around the World
- Green Jobs Today and Tomorrow
- Training and the Skills Gap
- Financing the Transformation
- Innovation: Technologies and Finances
- The Mainstreaming of Renewable Energy
1.FITs Around the World
Although not obvious based on recent media coverage, Feed-in Tariff's are becoming increasingly popular in countries across the globe.
In January, Ontario’s program was lauded by mid-western think tank, the Institute for Local Self Reliance, for the comparatively low cost of job creation and the U.K.’s FiT was celebrated based on conclusions that it could create 17,500 solar jobs by the end of 2011. Also this month, Nova Scotia circulated their proposed tariffs, the prices of which may be higher than those used in Ontario, Uganda launched a feed-in tariff program, and Vietman released a draft proposal for their feed in tariff.
Of course, FiTs are not the only green policy instrument available. In the U.S., Energy Secretary Steven Chu reports that they have weatherized 300,000 homes, and Maryland Governor, Martin O'Malley, is said to be introducing legislation to assist off-shore wind development. Despite these efforts, the uneven incentives offered in the U.S. are reported to be hampering growth
2. Green Jobs Today and Tomorrow
The green sectors of the economy have performed well through the recession and successfully created thousands of jobs, as new data now demonstrates. Here in Ontario, over 4000 direct manufacturing jobs have been created or announced thanks to the Green Energy Act. Ohio is reported to be home to over 9000 clean energy jobs at some 169 different green businesses. And data now shows that in 2009, California boasted 174,000 jobs in green sectors of the economy, 5000 of which were added in 2008.
2011 is expected to be another good year for green jobs. Solar manufacturing and installation are expected to experience continued growth, with 50% of U.S. firms anticipating they will be hiring new employees through the year. Wind energy is also expected to do well, particularly in the U.K. where recent investments in ports have attracted off-shore wind manufacturers. RenewableUK (formerly BWEA) estimate that with the establishment of a strong offshore wind manufacturing base, the wind industry can create 60,000 jobs in the UK by 2020.
Aside from renewable energy, a recent study out of North Carolina shows that recycling is creating jobs and fueling economic growth in the state. Also, a study commissioned by the U.S. Green Building Council reported that green building is forecast to support 7.9 million American jobs from 2009 to 2013. The study also found that the sector was responsible for $173 billion in U.S. economic activity from 2000 through 2008, and forecasts that it will generate another $554 billion in GDP from 2009 through 2013.
3. Training and the Skills Gap
Addressing the looming skills gap continues to be important in North America and elsewhere.
A recent report out of the EU found that member nations including Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK lack skilled workers in certain areas vital to the green economy, and they also lack green skills strategies at the national level, which could hamper green growth. The study’s authors recommend these countries adopt a comprehensive strategy to address the skills gap.
Training may be one area where the U.S. is ahead of others. In addition to the many programs currently underway, this month training initiatives were announced or commenced in Des Moines Iowa, Minnesota, San Diego and Michigan. Many of these training strategies are targeted to low-income citizens and other marginalized populations.
As more countries look to develop off-shore wind projects, a skills gap is becoming evident in this field. This month, admitting that they didn’t have the talent in country, France put out a tender for the country’s first wind farms. And here in Ontario, Trillium Power Wind Corporation, said that considerable opportunities exist for U.K. firms with experience in off-shore wind development thanks to the Green Energy Act.
4. Financing the Transformation
Despite legislative uncertainty in the U.S., and to a lesser degree in Europe, renewable energy continues to attract both public and private capital, with 2010 proving to be a record year.
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, $243 billion was invested in renewable energy globally in 2010, a 30% increase from 2009. Venture capitalists invested 3.7 billion in the U.S. alone. Elsewhere, UAE firm, Masdar closed a $290 million fund near the end of the year and announced plans to launch its third investment fund, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) committed $300 million to the development of renewable energy projects in India.
So far, 2011 looks to be promising as well. Massachusetts-based Global Energy Investors expects to close a $200 Million fund within the first quarter of this year, and analysts anticipate large investments from governments and private investors in both Japan and Taiwan, among others.
5. Innovation: Technologies and Finances
Innovative technologies are helping drive costs down and round out electricity systems. For example, the cost of solar panels has dropped significantly in recent years, and it is expected to continue to fall thanks to advances in concentrated photovoltaic manufacturing, new methods for silicon processing and nanotechnology.
Innovation is also being brought to the field of finance to help energy efficiency upgrades and other projects become affordable. For example, Metrus Energy will perform industrial and institutional scale energy efficiency upgrades with no upfront payment or capital investment. They then recoup their investment by charging companies for the energy saved – the money that would have gone toward utility bills instead goes to Metrus. And Long Island-based Next Energy is providing a similar service to homeowners interested in geothermal heating and cooling systems. It is likely this type of financing will become increasingly common.
6. The Mainstreaming of Renewable Energy?
Climate change may not be in many headlines these days, but perhaps this is not because it has fallen by the wayside, but instead due to the fact that renewable energy and other greening efforts have become mainstream.
A recent study conducted by Bloomberg found wide-spread support for a green energy future among energy industry professionals after surveying 468 energy industry stakeholders (renewable and non-renewable energy producers, energy distributors, major end users, consultants, and government/NGO officials working on energy policy). Among the findings: 76% of energy professionals believe government regulations should require utility companies to produce more energy from renewable sources. And 89% of energy professionals believe government incentives trump markets in driving energy efficiency uptake by consumers.
Other examples of the mainstreaming of renewable energy? OLG is reported to be the largest supporter of renewable energy from Bullfrog Power. PepsiCo is on track to becoming "fossil fuel free" by 2023, and U.S company, Just Energy, has committed to offset all direct and indirect carbon emissions associated with power generation at major Super Bowl XLV venues, making the recent Super Bowl the greenest ever.