Thursday, July 19, 2018
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How California’s Energy Efficiency is Helping Communities of Color
By Aubry Stone, President/CEO of the California Black Chamber of Commerce
Published April 19, 2018

Aubry Stone (courtesy photo)

At the end of 2017, California reported an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent—the lowest in four decades—and a net gain of 47,400 new jobs. While significant for the state as a whole, those numbers reflect even more significance for communities of color in California.

With over 2 million African Americans living in California, 4.6 percent unemployment accounts for an additional 82,600 people back at work. And a significant part of California’s vibrant economy is the state’s smart energy strategy, which has created hundreds of jobs in recent years.

In 2015, the state Senate passed SB 350 – the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act – which aimed to double statewide energy efficiency savings in electricity and natural gas use by 2030. More recent legislation has expedited those savings to meet a goal of 2020 with the help of more robust, aggressive initiatives.

Last year, Energy Upgrade California, a program created by the California Public Utilities Commission, completed a comprehensive audit of residents and businesses to better understand individual energy needs and motivating factors for increasing energy efficiency. They found that not only are Californians driven by environmental and health benefits, they greatly value the significant economic benefits enjoyed across the board.

Contrary to popular belief, clean-energy jobs don’t stop at energy production. Our state continues to lead the country in new green jobs, thanks in large part to prioritizing energy efficiency to meet power needs. In fact, today, 70 percent of California’s green economy jobs are related to improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings.

Most importantly, these jobs are local, directly benefitting communities across the state. Unlike many industries that are concentrated in one area, or can be outsourced, most of the efficiency work – like insulating attics or installing highly efficient equipment – must be done locally.

For a generation, communities of color have been the last to benefit from the expansion of the California economy. In order for African American communities to fully take advantage of these opportunities, it’s important to employ effective workforce development programs and help diversify this quickly growing field. Everyone should benefit.

Not only are these jobs helping reduce energy consumption, but this increased efficiency is helping businesses save money long-term and produce more results with less environmental impact. Through Energy Upgrade California, communities have access to information about the future of energy savings, and provides easy solutions that anyone can use.

Compared to the rest of the country, the Golden State now produces twice as much economic output for every kilowatt-hour consumed. When families save money on their monthly utility bills, they have more to spend in the local economy, leading to more jobs and economic opportunities.

Californians are well-known for setting elevated standards and refusing to settle. We have the second lowest per capita electricity consumption rates in the country. Through innovation and perseverance, California’s per capita electricity consumption has been nearly flat over the past 40 years, while the other 49 states increased their average per capita use by more than 50 percent.

California’s increased energy efficiency has eliminated over 30 million metric tons of CO2 emissions – equal to the annual impact of 6 million cars – and will help curb pollution from 41 power plants by the end of the next decade. We’ve made significant progress in achieving our clean energy goals, and are on the road to an even brighter energy future.

Taking the high road isn’t easy, but more often than not, we find innovative ways to overcome challenges and turn them into opportunities. It’s no surprise that we’re ranked #1 in the country for energy efficiency. It’s a title we’ve worked hard to earn, and now everyone should begin to reap the rewards.

Categories: Economy | Local | Op-Ed
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