On April 1, 2010, Green For All hosted a Clean Energy Jobs Convening in Albuquerque at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Sponsors of the event included Green For All, Sierra Club, Concept Green, LLC, Renewable Funding, Central New Mexico Labor Council and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. The two featured speakers included State Senator Tim Keller and Jeremy Hays (Green For All, Clean Energy Works Portland).

(One of the event sponsors, Green For All, an organization based out of Oakland, CA, has committed to environmental and economic justice through the promotion of green jobs with justice. I honor and respect the work they are doing, and in particular am a huge fan of their founder, Van Jones. While Van left to serve in the Obama Administration  last year, they have continued a commitment to strong and inspiring leadership with Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins.)

I just moved back to New Mexico from the Bay Area, living there for over six years, and it was amazing to see Oakland come to the table with a broad coalition of stake holders here in Albuquerque to talk about a model for promoting jobs with justice that has had some success in Portland. The goal of the convening was to learn more about the pilot project in Portland and then collectively work to tweak the model so that it can work here in Albuquerque – bringing a triple bottom line model of environmental and economic justice to New Mexico.

The convening focused on Clean Energy Works Portland’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program that is operating within Portland’s Renewable Energy Financing District. In 2009 New Mexico approved SB647, known as the Renewable Energy Financing District Act, which allows local governments to make available bonds (through federal stimulus dollars) to the public for the express purpose of increasing clean, renewable energy use. The bill was sponsored by Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe-25). Up to this point, no one in the state has significantly moved on the opportunities the bill has opened up for New Mexico. Santa Fe and Los Lunas are looking into it, but have not created a program yet.

Clean Energy Works Portland is suggesting that Albuquerque take advantage of the new bill by instituting a PACE program, but crafting it so that it works with our communities’ specific needs. Some of the highlights of the program Portland is modeling include:

  1. creation of “high road” jobs, which means jobs with promise of upward movement;
  2. creation of jobs that focus on “community benefits,” meaning access to high road jobs for the entire community;
  3. retrofits to existing structures, which means that people of all income levels can benefit from the program, not just those that can afford to build new structures’;
  4. includes involvement of the city’s revolving loan fund, which means there are funds available to folks participating in this program that is borrowed from the city; since there is no money required up front, folks can save up and then pay back the loan through property tax or utilities; APRs on the loans are based on income-level, increasing the accessibility of participation in the program;
  5. pre-qualified contractors are the only folks allowed to conduct the retrofits as part of the program, guaranteeing quality work, which will increase word-of-mouth and expansion of the program;
  6. program contractors must build in “high road” jobs as they expand their workforce (because of increased demand from the program) and select folks from the program’s job training program as a stipulations of participation;
  7. Clean Energy Works Portland expects to assist 10,000 families weatherize their homes, increase efficiency while decreasing the city’s carbon footprint, reduce utilities bills, support existing jobs and create 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

The process for implementation of this program includes (but is not limited to):

  1. Substance: strategies, targets and goals must be set as a coalition, including all stakeholders;
  2. Adoption: signatures showing demand and city council resolution to implement the program is required;
  3. Implementation: Mayoral-appointed committee to oversee the program.

Some of the goals of this program include (but are not limited to):

  1. Diversity
  2. Local Hires
  3. Health Insurance for all workers who are part of the program (including those employed by participating contractors)
  4. Diverse business participation
  5. High Quality work
  6. Creation of a Job Training Program as part of the PACE program, that trains local folks and has the promise of “high road” jobs at the end of the program.

The Albuquerque PACE program would require an addendum to the current legislation, which only allows for funds to be directed toward clean energy and not necessarily toward energy efficiency upgrades (which would effectively reach more working class folks). Senator Tim Keller believes that because the addendum is “budget neutral” that it could potentially receive no opposition in Albuquerque City Council. This program will serve to support the larger economic development goals of the city of Albuquerque.

Because this is not a “build it and they will come” kind of program, essential to its success will be drumming up the demand for the program. My specific work through Working America has the potential to play a key role in the coalition. Working America is the largest grassroots, progressive organization in New Mexico, with access to at least 40,000 members in the city of Albuquerque. We could play a significant part in educating the public about the benefits of this program, mobilizing them to pressure their representatives to support a city council resolution and offer them direct access to the program through our coalition connections.

Additionally, because of our expansive outreach in the community, our participation ensures that low income and communities of color – who have largely been left out of the “green wave” – are considered and included in the program in meaningful and significant ways.

Working America can also push to create language that effectively conveys the benefits of this program to a wide swath of folks – so that it makes sense (which it does) and appeals to lower income and working class folks and is not represented as a benefit that only higher income folks can afford – or have a right to. Energy inefficiency affects every level of society and bringing a program such as this to the doorstep of every American is critical in not only protecting the environment but also protecting consumers from increasing utility rates as our resources become more and more scarce. In addition, a program such as this is a boon to any city who adopts it, as it will surely boost job creation and economic development, bringing us all out of the recession with jobs with integrity and promise.

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman has already sponsored the Home Star Program, in process of passing through legislation now, which would significantly increase the saving and overall cost of retrofitting homes to be more energy efficient – the perfect complement to the Clean Energy Works program. Senator Bingaman has a lot of influence in the state, so thus far the Clean Energy Works program has all the right elements to be created and be successful.

I was very excited to be part of this convening and vision how this diverse coalition could significantly contribute to a program that has at its foundation a triple bottom line: creation of Family-Supporting Jobs and supporting local businesses, save money for both consumers and tax payers,  and restore the environment.

Below is a link to more information about the Clean Energy Works Portland program – there you will find the full report back on the Clean Energy Works Portland program thus far; the Community Workforce Agreement; City Council Resolution and the Press Release. All to give a sense of how this program has worked thus far and could work for assisting with meaningful economic and job development in Albuquerque.

http://www.greenforall.org/what-we-do/cities-initiative/portland/clean-energy-works-portland

(C) 2010 By Shannon Laliberte Parks. All Rights Reserved. Please Obtain Permission to Copy.

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