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More jobs will sprout as ‘green’ energy grows

Posted on Feb 3, 2012 in Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Green Jobs, Pacific Business News, State Energy Office

Glick [Pacific Business News](Pacific Business News) 
Solar energy leads the pack as industry attracts global investors
by Mark Glick, In My Opinion

Clean energy is not just a matter of energy security and a means of protecting the environment; it is good for business.

It provides a critical boost to our economy by attracting investments from companies around the globe while benefiting local workers, companies and entrepreneurs.

To put this into perspective, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Hawaii Green Jobs Initiative identifies 11,145 current positions related to the clean-energy sector and projects a 26 percent increase in 2012. With this, Hawaii ranks third in the nation in green job growth, and we are hopeful that our position will be elevated in the coming months.

Many of the green jobs in Hawaii are in the burgeoning solar industry, which has been steadily employing electricians, construction workers, engineers, designers and project managers to keep up with the demand for photovoltaic and solar thermal systems. Accounting for 15 percent of all construction expenditures in the state, the solar industry has provided a stimulus for our construction industry which has been experiencing difficulties due to the downturn in real estate development. Hawaii is now second in the nation for PV installations per capita.

Solar projects are just part of the picture. Clean-energy projects being planned have the potential to significantly lift the job market. Currently, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism is tracking project activity from over 70 utility-scale renewable-energy projects featuring Hawaii’s diverse array of renewable sources, including wind, sun, hydropower, biofuel, waste-to-energy, geothermal, ocean thermal and wave energy.

These projects represent thousands of jobs for Hawaii. For example, Honeywell’s biorefinery project, which recently broke ground at Tesoro’s plant at Campbell Industrial Park, can generate some 1,000 production and refinery jobs if its pilot program succeeds in converting biomass to green gasoline.

Our remarkable and wide mix of renewable resources, coupled with state support and the goal to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030, is also attracting ongoing attention for R&D projects that can produce models for replication worldwide. Gov. Neil Abercrombie recently signed agreements with the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy, China Council for Promotion of International Trade and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization for cutting-edge, business-minded programs here in Hawaii.

Developments like these not only position Hawaii as a great test bed and launch pad for emerging energy technologies, they infuse new money in what is becoming one of the state’s growth industries. Considering that Japan and China represent about one-sixth of the world’s GDP, increasing trade with these countries offers great promise for Hawaii’s emerging clean-energy economy.

For those looking for companies working in the clean-energy arena, DLIR recently launched its Hawaii Directory of Green Employers, which can be found at https://lmi.ehawaii.gov/green/welcome.html. The online directory lists 350 companies that offer a variety of clean-energy and sustainability positions.

To capture a majority of the upcoming job opportunities locally, Hawaii needs to ensure we have a work force that is appropriately trained and is ready to mobilize. To do this, training mechanisms are being implemented statewide. Through its departments of engineering, law, business and environmental sciences, the University of Hawaii is offering students appropriate background and experiences to step into these positions.

There are many others doing wonderful things to help prepare our work force as well. An extensive list of training programs can be found at www.HawaiiCRCS.org.

Moving forward, we hope to build out a well-rounded energy category that creates a diverse range of jobs that people in Hawaii can take advantage of. Blue collar, white collar, research, technical, and entrepreneurial opportunities will grow as this category expands within our Islands.

Mark Glick is state energy administrator in the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s State Energy Office.