Dr. David Roland-Holst
In a recent conversation with Green Technology
magazine, Professor David Roland-Holst, co-author of two of the Next
10 reports, discussed workforce creation, federal stimulus money and
What impact can a federal stimulus package have on the creation of green
There are two categories of employment that we should distinguish between:
short-term and long-term employment opportunities. The short-term ones are
obviously the coin of the realm right now. In terms of job creation, I
think the stimulus package is really going to try to target
employment-intensive development, mainly in construction-oriented areas. If
investments are mde for the New Economy, enhancing productivity, long term employment
gains will follow.
What types of projects might be best for California?
The current policy is intended to fight a recession, so the
Administration will be particularly interested in short-term job creation
with so-called "shovel ready" type projects. For energy, I think the best
candidate in California is energy infrastructure.
In an upcoming report we're looking at the "super grid" idea for
California, developing an integrated energy distribution network for the
digital age. Basically, electricity started out illuminating light bulbs.
Now energy is really focusing on illuminating people with digital
We need an energy infrastructure that's fully integrated, that doesn't
just move electricity for machinery and industrial use, but also moves all
energy-related services, including media and other information content.
Some examples would be home monitoring [of electricity usage] and energy
efficiency. A new super grid would be a classic megaproject like the TVA
for the digital age, something that really focuses on restructuring energy
services for the whole California economy.
I think California can market itself as the test bed for this on a
national basis. We're out in front in the energy technologies, were out in
front in the information technologies, and we've got very forward looking
utilities who will participate. California is a really good candidate for
a megaproject to establish a new digital age electrical power network.
What would this involve - it's more than stringing lines, right?
What this means is not only linking the bedrock power sources, like
traditional power plants, but integrating the grid with renewables, which
are now orphaned from traditional energy sources. The existing grid grew
from demand centers outward, so it's where the traditional sources are.
Renewables are located now in places like the Mojave desert (solar), hilltops and ridges (wind), and remote mountain areas (geothermal).
These all need
to be integrated into a grid for delivery to demand centers.
On the demand side, we have an ad hoc patchwork of electricity services
that are part of the established grid. Both are 1950s era systems in the
way they handle energy. They deliver it to households, and households use
it. There's no monitoring, no "smart" home or enterprise energy management technologies are integrated.
Technology centers, biotech centers and other high end users each have
different but critical Digital Age energy requirements. We haven't entered a space race type of
situation yet, where we promote innovation from end to end for this technology.
What would this mean to the economy?
It would be employment intensive at the outset, requiring all kinds of
workers, from basic construction services to the most esoteric levels of
IT. The long-term energy efficiency gains would pump money into the
economy and stimulate employment across all sectors.
For example, the money households save on energy would be spent on
haircuts and espresso drinks rather than going into the carbon fuel supply chain. When
energy savings free up money to spend, we end up with what I call
indirect job creation. These are green jobs but not green collar
jobs. And they make up the majority of green jobs, and most are in services, where jobs cannot be outsourced.
There are three phases of green technology development: design,
fabrication and adoption/implementation/installation. Phase one
and three can be captured domestically. Phase two is likely to be outsourced to
more competitive labor markets. I don't see this as much of a problem. Biotech
and IT hardware products may be made in China, but the industries and their downstream retailers are very
Even if solar panels are not made here, phase one and three can be very
lucrative. What California needs to do is capture the innovation potential
and really establish energy efficiency as the next knowledge-intensive
factor after IT and biotech.
At the Green California Summit, policy makers, agency chiefs and others
involved in green government network and learn about the latest
technologies and regulations. What should they consider at this time?
Now is the time that all eyes are in California, watching to see what we
will do. Washington is now moving beyond the denial phase on climate policy, and national
leaders will be turning their heads towards California. We have to provide a
roadmap for energy efficiency and intensive New Economy job creation.
We cannot relent on this because of temporary low energy prices.
Energy prices are being driven down by demand side forces, but global scarcity will come
right back and bite us when economies recover. We'll need a lot to invest in when it
comes to climate change. We have to protect ourselves against it. There
are a lot of assets at risk. We have two airports in Bay Area, for
example, that are within two meters of sea level. We have to start right away
planning for how we want to adapt. There's a lot to do and, with planning,
the state can spend its stimulus money very productively and set an example for the nation.