Realizing Our Potential: Clean Energy Town Hall

greenJobSolarPanel

I was lucky to have been involved in organizing last Saturday’s Clean Energy and the Economy Town Hall.  It gave me the opportunity to work with great organizations like Sierra Club, Conservation Voters NM, Greenpeace, NM Interfaith Power and Light, National Wildlife Federation and a few others.

A major goal of the town hall was to engage a wide range of elected officials (city councilors, legislators, and county commissioners) with the community around the subject of building a new economy in New Mexico centered on clean energy.

Since my group, New Mexico Youth Organized, has been working on a green jobs initiative since last year, I held a workshop at the town hall entitled, “The Potential for Green Jobs in NM.”  This subject seemed to resonate throughout the town hall, so I want to share some of my info in the hope that it may prove helpful to others working on similar initiatives.

Green Jobs in New Mexico

I define green jobs as “family supporting, career-track jobs that directly contribute to preserving or enhancing environmental quality.”  Many may not know that New Mexico is poised to be a leader in green jobs training. Not only do we have the great wind training programs at Mesalands Community College, but San Juan College already has a working solar panel installation program as well.  Other local community colleges (College of Santa Fe, CNM, UNM) are expanding their curriculum to include green job training programs.

Besides training programs, NM is especially well positioned to expand into a clean energy economy due to the fact that it has the best wind, solar, and geothermal potential in the nation.  This is a major reason why so many large solar companies are moving to our state, adding to the ranks of the many local, grassroots solar companies in New Mexico since the late ‘70s.

Brendan Miller, the state’s Green Economy Manager, identified still more state green opportunities in his presentation, such as methane capture and energy conversion, biodiesel manufacturing, green product manufacturing, and local food production.

Other presentations covered recently enacted state legislation to assist both businesses and consumers by providing clean energy economy incentives:

  • HB 622 helps to establish green job training curriculum throughout the state
  • SB 318 provides a tax incentive to emerging and existing green business via the JTIP (Job Training Incentive Program) Fund
  • SB 288 creates a state fund to offer incentives to colleges engaged in energy related research and green jobs training
  • SB 247 allows cities and counties to form financing districts to help property owners install renewable energy technology on their homes, SB 257 adds a 10% state solar tax credit on top of the federal 30% credit
  • HB 572 allows property owners to use a special tax assessment to repay private loans used for home renewable energy technology installation.

In addition, the Federal Recovery Package contains a green jobs training funding via the Workforce Investment Act, Green Block Grants, Weatherization Assistance Programs, and Green Jobs Renewable and Efficiency training.  Funding is also being allocated for land and water clean up management.  What’s great about these programs is that they aim to help Americans most in need right now — the unemployed, single mothers, veterans, at-risk youth.

Much praise is deserved for visionaries in the field who did so much to lay the foundation for a clean energy economy. The Renewable Energy Industry Association is one great group that readily comes to mind.

In his closing comments, State Senator Eric Griego offered some worthwhile advice that should be heeded in the days ahead.  He emphasized the importance of people on the ground staying abreast of these programs and communicating continually with state agencies and legislators like himself to ensure that green funding is being spent in a way that helps as many people as possible, while also preserving our state’s environmental quality.

I would like to thank not only the groups who helped pull this town hall together, but also those who attended the town hall.  They all contributed to making it a success.  I hope this is only the start of a community conversation about how we all can work together to move into a new energy economy that will produce, stimulate sustainable economic vitality, and improving health of our environment.

For more info:  Here are two other takes on the Town Hall from Democracy for New Mexico and NM FBIHOP.

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