Green Pathways to Prosperity: EnergyWorks and the Santa Fe Housing Trust (Part 2)

This is the second in a three part series on the Green Pathways for Prosperity Tour.  Check back to see more of the awesome green job opportunities that are going on right here in New Mexico.

As much fun as I was having with the Youthworks River Restoration crew, we still had to move on to see some other green jobs involving young people.  Yet, we were going to see something much different from the river restoration project.  We were on our way to see the EnergyWorks crew performing energy efficiency retrofits on a Santa Fe home.

Within the emerging green economy, home efficiency retrofits are looked upon as a great entry level green job that can provide many people with an occupation.  Retrofits performed on homes also greatly contribute to decreasing overall emissions from buildings and saves residents money on their utility bills.

The program in Santa Fe is a collaboration between the Santa Fe Housing Community Trust and Youthworks.  Here’s a quick synopsis of the program from the Housing Trust’s Resource Development Manager, Daniel Werwath:

“EnergyWorks is an integrated residential home energy efficiency pilot program that combines green job training, workforce development, low-cost energy savings installation and youth educational components to address multiple pressing community needs. The primary structure of the program is based around an energy audit and a regime of energy saving items under $100 that is installed in under two hours by a three-person crew of green jobs interns, at no cost to the homeowner.”

Werwath continued, “As part of the program, YouthWorks crewmembers also receive free G.E.D. classes and participate in two entry-level classes at the Santa Fe Community College. Since the launch of the program one crew member has received their G.E.D. and two have enrolled in the Community College full time.”

This program originally was being funded by the Sierra Club and the City of Santa Fe, but now they are using the Community Development Block Grant Recovery program funds from the Federal Recovery Package.  The EnergyWorks program is a great example of how our Recovery funds have been put to good use.

So after receiving the informative briefing from Daniel, the group on the tour was led to a home where some trained retrofitters were hard at work.  Here’s Miguel Olivas explaining some of the work he is doing with doorways and windows to make them more efficient:

Youthworks Retrofits1 from Juan on Vimeo.

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Van Jones: Still an inspiration to me (Updated)

VanJones (UPDATE – 9/10/09: Van Jones was viciously attacked because he believes America can be a better place for all people. To express your support for Van, sign the petition on the new website sponsored by the League of Young Voters.)

I got some news this weekend that came as somewhat of a surprise to me.  In fact I woke up to multiple texts early Sunday morning from friends notifying me that Van Jones, the special advisor for green jobs to our nation’s administration, had just stepped down from his position.

During the past year and a half, I have worked with the organization Green for All to help push for good, green jobs in our state of New Mexico.  Throughout this time I was able to meet Van a few times, and I even had the honor of introducing him in front of thousands of people on the opening night of the 2009 Powershift conference.

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Planning Albuquerque’s Climate Future

The City of Albuquerque recently released a draft of its Climate Action Plan. This plan was put together by the Climate Action Task Force to help design strategies for 80% greenhouse gas reductions in Albuquerque by 2050.

From the City of ABQ website:

The Climate Action Task Force are volunteers made up of environmentalists, engineers, scientists, business professionals, political action groups, government staff, and a wide range of expertise and opinions hopefully able to represent a cross section of the Albuquerque Demographics.

Throughout the month of August, town halls were held to engage the public about the Climate Action plan. If you weren’t able to attend one of the meet-ups, you can still give feedback here.

I attended one of these town halls last week at UNM. The task force has come up with eight strategies to recommend to the city council. Representatives from all eight working groups were there to present their recommendations for public comment.

Carrie McChesney was one of the first to speak at the Town Hall. She headed up the Business, Industry, and Carbon Offsets working group. The group’s main goal is to “offer a suite of strategies designed to help business and industry understand, identify and act upon opportunities inherent in greenhouse gas reductions.”

This seems like a great idea since state and federal carbon offset mandates are currently emerging. Because our city is responsive to this development, we can help businesses prepare for compliance with these offsets, and make them aware of the best practices being demonstrated across the nation.

Working with local businesses and industry via these best practices will help us greatly reduce our city’s emissions as well as producing money savings for businesses in the process. This can boost our local economy. Businesses can reinvest these savings. Demand will be generated for more local jobs in the fields of building retrofits and energy audits.

Here’s Carrie at one of the Climate Action town halls last week talking about the strategies developed by the Business, Industry, and Carbon Offsets working group.

City of ABQ Climate Planning
Meeting-Business, Industry, C Offsets
from Juan Reynosa on Vimeo.

New Mexico Green Jobs Training in Action

I recently attended a pretty cool climate symposium last Friday that was held at UNM and hosted by the NM League of Women Voters and the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.

One of the best presentations I saw that day was a panel composed of staff and members of Santa Fe “¡YouthWorks! and some City of Santa Fe representatives who have been helping to sustain the program.

¡YouthWorks! is a tremendous organization with a green jobs training model for youth that has a long track record of success.  It was a great feeling to listen to participants talk about their experiences and hear about the college degrees they’re currently pursuing.

But that’s enough of me talking about them.  Take a look at this video of the symposium panel and see for yourself why Youthworks’ work is so important.

Here’s the video:

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Putting the Brakes on New Mexico’s Solar Energy Industry?

solarpanelMany in our state have been working to uplift the solar industry so that many more New Mexicans can have access to the clean energy that is so plentiful and easy to harness here.  There is a growing awareness  of our state’s of the enormous potential for solar energy production, and of the fact that we have the scientific infrastructure, along with the public and business support, to maximize this opportunity.

Local advocacy groups, like the NM Solar Energy Association, are doing superb work in educating  the public about the benefits of solar energy  (make sure to check out their Solar Fiesta next month).  The Renewable Energy Industry Association, composed of renewable energy businesses, is enlisting ever increasing public and governmental support to help expand the solar industry.

Several state and federal incentives have been enacted in the past few years to assist in financing residential solar installation. And the Albuquerque city government is looking at yet another helpful financing mechanism to put into the mix.

We proudly recall the day when Governor Richardson  proclaimed  New Mexico the “clean energy state.” This year he took a bold step toward fulfilling this vision by helping to create the Green Jobs Cabinet. It’s mission:  “Enhance clean energy and clean technology economic development and job creation in New Mexico.”

So it would seem that we have all the right players in place, all partnering together to ensure that the solar industry grows to achieve this great vision and meet the demand in our state.

Unfortunately, there may be a hitch.

Recently PNM, our local electric utility, announced plans to discontinue its solar energy incentive program for residential and commercial users.

According to this NM Business Weekly article, PNM wants to drop the program because the “market is growing too fast”.

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Navajo Nation Passes Green Jobs Bill

Navajo Nation Summer Council

Navajo Nation Summer Council

Great news comes today from Window Rock, AZ as the Council of the Great Navajo Nation passed legislation enacting a Green Economy Commission and Fund to support a transition to a healthier and more sustainable economy.

I first heard of this initiative when a co-worker and I attended a Black Mesa Water Coalition meeting that focused on bringing a green economy to the Navajo Nation.  As time has gone by the coalition has grown, and it’s exciting to see a how a group of young people are playing their part to help change politics in native communities.

From the official press release:

“This legislation will set up the infrastructure needed to capture federal money already earmarked for green job development.  What’s more this legislation will focus on small-scale, community development— a form of economic development that empowers local communities and allows folks to work near their homes and communities.   This moves the Navajo Nation and the Navajo people one step closer to a green economy.”

A big congratulations goes out to everyone at the Navajo Green Jobs Coalition for all their hard work.  And another thanks to the Navajo Nation Council for realizing the potential of a green economy.

A Breath of Not So Fresh Air

So now that the Waxman-Markey bill has passed the House, we can all breath a sigh of relief right?  Unfortunately, no.  Hopes are high as the United States ventures into breaking ground with its first piece of climate legislation. Yet many are also  disappointed with the implications of the bill.

For one thing, the bill still bases its reductions on the 450 ppm (parts per million) carbon level, rather than the more realistic and recommended level of 350 ppm.  Then it goes a step further (maybe lower is a better word here), since, the way it looks now, the bill will help in making a big, no gigantic, reduction of about 4-5% by the year 2020.  The bill says its 17%, but that’s based on the 450 ppm level, which just won’t work.

The other problem is the amount of carbon allowances that will be given directly back to the companies who just paid them.  Polluting entities are set up to get all the way up to 85% back of the fines they will pay for excess emissions.

So how does a climate bill end up rewarding polluters more and setting pretty insignificant numbers for pollution reduction?  Wasn’t the point of this bill to begin punishing polluters who have gone too far and begin helping people who are in need in our country by helping provide new job opportunities and moving to cleaner energy?

This scenario with this bill has gotten so bizarre that my friend has begun calling it the Wackey-Merman bill, which, in his words, is, “like a mythic half/man, half/sea creature: the head has the science that tells us what is necessary yet the lower half of the body is the slimy political part that can’t seem to walk the talk.”

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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.

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Green Jobs Bills Signed: Moving to a sustainable tomorrow

richardsonbillsigning1Yesterday Governor Bill Richardson signed a number of great “green” bills.  By so doing, he helped New Mexico take many steps towards more sustainable economic growth in the future.

New Mexico Youth Organized had the honor of working with outstanding groups like New Energy Economy, Conservation Voters New Mexico and others to help enact two key pieces of legislation.

Senate Bill 318, sponsored by Senator Eric Griego, earmarks $1 million dollars of the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) fund to go towards supporting and bringing in green businesses, such as solar manufacturing, wind technology, bio-fuels production, and energy retrofits.

House Bill 622, sponsored by Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, has many components of the Federal 2007 Green Jobs Bill. It will provide support to the Department of Higher Education for implementing green jobs training programs in colleges throughout the state.  Not only that, it also prioritizes many local populations (single mothers, unemployed, at risk youth) to provide them with new opportunities in the emerging green economy.

Environmental leaders across the state also worked with state legislators to enact the following policies:  add a 10% state tax credit to the 30% federal tax credit to help people install solar power systems (SB 257), provide tax credits for production of utility scale solar and geothermal plants (SB 237), and form financing districts (SB 647) or use a special property tax assessment to also help New Mexico residents install renewable energy technology.

New Mexico is beginning to move in a direction where we can begin to use our vastly underused resources of solar, wind, and geothermal.  Significant federal support exists to help take us in this direction, and, from what I saw at yesterday’s signing ceremony, we are beginning to gain a great amount of state support as well.

With the enactment of these policies, we are creating opportunities for residents of New Mexico to become part of the green economy.

A big round of thanks goes out to all the great individuals and organizations that played a part in this success. A thank you as well to Governor Richardson, Senator Griego, Speaker Lujan, and all the other legislators who are helping to create a more sustainable New Mexico.

Putting the Brown Back in Green

What does this statement even mean?  Mainly it’s talking of how Hispanics, Native-Americans, and African-Americans across the country are getting reacquainted with their roots in the soil.

I’m sure that most people of color are aware of these roots, but they have other issues (getting a good education, finding a good job, surviving in this crazy world) to worry about, than to think about organic farming and working on sustainability and conservation.  Yet what I’m going to be saying by the end of this is that this green thing that many of us have been ignoring is one of the simple answers to help improve our lives and our communities.

My first major act of environmentalism was also an act of survival.

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