Green Build 2012

By:  John Kitzhaber
Date: Nov. 14, 2012
Location: Unknown

It is an honor to be here with energy and business innovators and leaders who understand what it takes to build a clean economy: creativity; smart business thinking; and partnerships that cross borders -- both geographic and political.

Energy and climate are the issues of our time -- both globally and here along the West Coast -- and no set of challenges will have a greater impact on the region in the coming decades.

The central question around energy is whether we shape the coming investment and development or it shapes us.

Answering this question is even more urgent than it was a year ago, and it's even more acute given the difficulties we are having making the complicated transition from 20th century energy infrastructure to new business models that can unleash the job-creation potential of low-carbon energy innovation.

We see the challenges every day¬Ö

* In the high cost of maintaining outdated energy, water and transportation infrastructure;
* In trade wars aimed at locking up market share for next-generation energy products; and
* In heated policy debate about leveling the playing field for clean energy.

Most concerning to me, however, is the fact that a troubling narrative is getting louder in America: that sound environmental stewardship is a barrier to economic growth and job creation.

The recession and our slower-than-hoped-for recovery have created an understandable sense of urgency around job creation and economic development. But they also provided an opportunity for some to use high unemployment as an excuse for relaxing environmental protections. These same arguments have also been used to argue for backing away from next steps to reinvent the West Coast economy and competitively position ourselves to thrive in an increasingly carbon-constrained future.

Washington, Oregon and California, however, have defied this trend -- retaining progressive leadership committed to clean energy and maintaining the belief that we can create jobs and economic activity without sacrificing long-term environmental stewardship. Along the West Coast, we recognize that the clean economy, energy efficiency and building to last offers us perhaps the only path to a sustainable future insulated from the chilling effect of fluctuating fossil fuel costs and supply.

Led by California, where in 2010 voters soundly rejected a ballot measure funded by Texas oil companies to roll back their landmark AB-32 climate law, to British Columbia, where a price has been placed on carbon as a means of financing a cleaner future.

The good news is that new public opinion research further affirms support for our proactive efforts to:

* prepare for the effects of climate in communities and on future infrastructure siting
* price pollution and dirty fuels and carbon
* invest in clean energy jobs we can't outsource
* invest in energy efficient buildings and advanced transportation
* protect the planet for future generations.

West coast voters also see a strong role for government in catalyzing innovation and growing the clean energy economy. Imagine that!

So from both the public sector and the private sector, the future is about leadership and it's about innovation. It's about all of us raising our game and accelerating the success we have had to date to realize clean energy opportunities by forging multi-state partnerships and sharing strategies. It's about not letting up on these efforts.

To this end, Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia are busy this week here in San Francisco at implementation meetings for the West Coast Jobs Action Plan we signed last March under the auspices of the Pacific Coast Collaborative.

Our March agreement reaffirmed that clean economy collaboration and low-carbon innovation are central to a win-win competitive strategy that has already created a $47 billion regional market.

This week at Greenbuild, we are doubling down on our plans to help change the North American narrative and to demonstrate the value of clean economic policies through a collaborative approach.

Today, more than 508,000 Pacific Coast residents from California to British Columbia are cashing "green job" paychecks every week. We therefore reject the myth that jobs and the environment are in conflict -- because our own experience and hard data shows otherwise. We know what other regions have yet to learn:

* That the cleanest form of energy is the energy we don't use and that there is tremendous economic potential in significantly scaling up investment in energy efficiency and conservation;
* That the real potential of our extraordinary natural assets lies not in their exploitation, but in their restoration; and
* That the global market is hungry for technologies, products and services that get things done more efficiently and at a lower cost -- the keys to a clean economy.

Here are the facts: Job creation rates in the clean economy are well above those for other shrinking sectors of the economy. They pay better. And they have been more resilient to economic downturns. The West Coast Clean Economy Opportunity Study -- commissioned by the Pacific Coast Collaborative -- confirmed this, estimating that the regional clean economy could triple in size to $147 billion by 2020.

With the 2012 Jobs Action Plan, my West Coast partners and I committed to a strategy to create up to 1 million more jobs in the next decade.

The 2012 Jobs Action Plan requires a concerted effort on several inter-connected fronts. First, we need to move forward together on policies that will drive investment in clean, home-grown renewable energy and energy efficiency projects -- jobs we can't outsource. Second, we must better account for the environmental impacts associated with drilling, mining and burning fossil fuels that are detrimental to the health and well-being of our communities -- and future generations. Third, we need to protect the taxpayers' investment in infrastructure by making sure these investments are resilient and account for climate risk. And we must also look at how best to consider and then account for the cost of carbon and our costly reliance on dirty energy sources. California's cap and trade system -- launching today -- and British Columbia's carbon tax are two examples of tools that help more accurately price energy resources and continue the transition to a 21st century energy infrastructure.

The Green Jobs Action Plan also calls for new, measurable commitments for upgrading state-owned buildings to save taxpayers' money; innovative financing tools to unlock private capital; and joint fleet purchasing programs to build markets for advanced technology vehicles and regional manufacturing. The public and private sector need to work together to drive investment in research, development, incubation and commercialization to develop the next wave of energy efficient technologies and move them to market. Teaming up with signature research centers, the West Coast can lead the way in the next wave of clean energy development and deployment, creating quality jobs in our region while reducing the strain of utility bills for our businesses and citizens.

Second, we need to focus on how we are investing our limited resources. When it comes to job creation, the private sector has to take the lead. But government can also help catalyze new markets. The fact that our region excels in energy efficiency, wind energy, and solar installations is no accident; it is the product of the four jurisdictions creating long-term energy incentives for utilities and entrepreneurs to invest in.

State and provincial governments can create new jobs and new markets with their actions. The Government of British Columbia legislated and achieved its goal of making public sector buildings carbon neutral by 2010 -- a first in North America. Across the region, energy innovation like this will unlock literally billions more in trapped equity in the decade ahead.

In addition, our region will invest over $1 trillion in new infrastructure in the next 30 years. These investments must be built in the right place -- and be climate-smart -- or taxpayers will be forced to pay billions more to replace lost investments should the buildings be destroyed or displaced by extreme weather events. Organizing our communities and business for this task will require new thinking and innovation across borders, and create employment opportunities as we integrate smart grid and distributed generation systems.

How do we pay for this 21st century infrastructure? The recent recession took its toll on state budgets, and jurisdictions struggle to find the up-front cost of capital to invest in badly needed infrastructure upgrades.
British Columbia led the way in creating innovative new performance partnerships that tap private sector expertise and capital investment in public works projects. Oregon, Washington and California are joining suit and creating the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange. This new initiative from state agency partners will increase the feasibility for vital infrastructure projects at a time when existing public facilities are deteriorating and new investments are imperative to maintain economic competitiveness.

The West Coast Infrastructure Exchange will help by reducing costs through smarter management, bundling similar projects, partnering with innovators in other regions, and by helping to connect public entities with private capital. Target investment opportunities will include energy efficient buildings, transmission lines, water projects, and a smart grid. For example, we could bundle projects to install in-conduit hydroelectric generation turbines for irrigation districts, providing them stable and reliable energy and creating an energy-independent and wholly renewable future.
Stimulating job growth through taxpayer smart infrastructure investments will ensure that we grow in a resilient manner and position ourselves to thrive in a carbon-constrained future.

Resources that we counted on in the past have become much more scarce and uncertain. The West Coast Infrastructure Exchange will seek to support projects of regional significance with institutional capital. If we get this right, if we do this right, we can become less dependent on the vagaries of infrastructure funding from Washington, D.C. At build-out, we envision the Exchange will be a multi-jurisdictional center of expertise and a gateway to national and international investors for eligible infrastructure projects.

Today I pledge our commitment in Oregon to leverage regional collaboration up and down the I-5 corridor for a clean and competitive edge. We remain committed on innovation through specific programs and initiatives, but also through changes to our culture. A culture of innovation, focused on infrastructure that helps us meet our goals; a mindset that we need to reduce barriers while accelerating partnerships; a framework for state and local governments to work collaboratively with the private sector and the educational sector -- these are what the West Coast will need to thrive in the 21st century economy.

Our success in meeting that goal will depend on our willingness to develop regional partnerships and our willingness to pioneer ahead and embrace change -- tempered with a dash of west coast stubbornness to stay the course no matter which way political winds blow. Thankfully, we recognize clean energy for the economic engine that it is, rather than the political football some partisans would have it become.

We also recognize that to fully emerge from the financial downturn, and to develop a more prosperous future for all our citizens, we must be bold in our vision for our future. There are no quick fixes to these challenges, but having the courage and discipline to look ahead at where we want to be in a decade -- with economic opportunity for everyone, with careful stewardship of our natural, human, and financial capital -- is the first step to getting there.