Not only has California retaken the title of eighth largest economy in the world (surpassing Russia and Italy), it’s also leading the United States in renewable jobs and technology.
This news comes direct from Chris Busch, director of research at Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology, an energy and environmental policy firm. In his recent column for LiveScience, Busch tabulates the state’s myriad clean innovations.
First of all, California is among the top ten states leading in solar energy development. This is due to progressive energy policies begun in the new millennium and carried through today. In 2006, the state passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, a law requiring an 11 percent statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2011, Governor Brown oversaw the passage of a law requiring state utilities to generate 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Renewables have also gotten a boost from the state’s private sector. Between 2006 and 2012, total venture capital investment in California clean tech was over $20 billion.
According to California Solar Statistics, there are over 242,000 solar projects operating throughout the state, with over 2,200 megawatts installed. Falling prices for solar panel maintenance and installation has led to greater demand for small-scale residential and commercial rooftop arrays, and some companies are even building homes with solar panels as a prebuilt feature.
Busch reports that there are over 47,000 people working in the state’s solar power sector, one-third of all solar jobs in the U.S.
California also leads in recycling. In 2010, the state’s recycling rate was just below 50 percent, but that wasn’t good enough for state legislators. The next year, Governor Brown signed AB341, which requires that “75 percent of solid waste generated be source reduced, recycled, or composted by the year 2020.” The National Resources Defense Council estimates that 110,000 jobs could be created from this initiative, with an extra 38,6000 jobs created in related equipment and services businesses.
Finally, the state has a thing for electric vehicles. Five percent of new car sales in California were for EVs – in the first quarter of 2014 – and the government is willing to do just about anything to build Tesla’s new gigafactory.
Altogether, these innovations combined with the growth of traditional industries have seen employment in California grow by 7.9 percent. That’s a more than 2 percent leap compared to the rest of the country.