Thought Leadership

Local Leaders Discuss Jobs, Clean Energy & Public Participation

Submitted by Hanna Grene on August 13 2015
Policies & technologies critical to the economics of sustainable energy

Recently, CSE and the Climate Action Campaign hosted a Clean Energy Forum for elected officials, senior government staff, industry leaders and community stakeholders to discuss pathways to a clean energy future in the San Diego region.

Panelists offered their perspectives on climate and energy policies, industry growth trends and opportunities to increase customers’ voices in energy decisions. Senator Ben Hueso, chair of the Senate Utilities and Commerce Committee, gave the keynote talk, addressing the crucial importance of creating clean, healthy communities to keep San Diego beautiful and safe for future generations. He has introduced a bill (SB 189) that would create a blue-ribbon advisory committee of California’s leading innovators to provide feedback on clean energy and greenhouse gas-related policies and their impacts on the economy.

Local influencers

Local Government Panelists

Catherine Blakespear, deputy mayor of Encinitas
Chuck Lowery, deputy mayor of Oceanside
Lesa Heebner, mayor of Solana Beach
Mary Salas, mayor of Chula Vista
Serge Dedina, mayor of Imperial Beach
Don Mosier, Del Mar City councilmember
Cody Hooven, City of San Diego sustainability manager

Senior city planners, councilmembers and mayors gave updates on their respective climate action plans and laid out initiatives their jurisdictions are working toward to achieve sustainable city goals, including community choice aggregation (CCA), which allows local governments to secure alternative energy on a communitywide basis. Two common themes from all participants were a desire to hear more from constituents about energy issues and the importance of regional collaboration and community support to advance clean energy policies. They encouraged public participation through correspondence, meetings with officials and participation in public forums to show community support for sustainable energy solutions.

Clean energy jobs & access

Discussion of the clean energy workforce brought together individuals in manufacturing and energy efficiency, solar contractors and an electrical workers union representative to discuss growth in the sector. The solar industry alone employed 54,690 people in California in 2014, with approximately 10,000 additional jobs projected through 2015, according to the California Solar Jobs Census. In addition, there are about 300,000 people with jobs related to energy efficiency in the state, with more than half of those jobs in Southern California and the Inland Empire according to the California Advanced Energy Employment Survey. Panelists said these numbers show that clean energy technology is truly operational today and creating job opportunities and positive economic effects in the San Diego region.

Conversation also focused on opportunities for enhancing transparency and accessibility in the regulatory environment and strategies to ensure that all community segments have opportunities to benefit from clean energy solutions. Local advocates from areas of public health and economic development highlighted how the positive impacts of clean energy technologies bring about lasting, impactful changes within communities – particularly in low-income areas and among underserved populations who are often disproportionally affected by air pollution and high energy bills.

The big picture

All the panelists – from policymakers and industry experts to local advocates – agreed that collaboration is the critical bridge toward driving our local, state and national climate goals. They said there aren’t enough opportunities for local influencers across public and private sectors to come together to address important energy concerns, ask questions and simply talk to one another about creating a clean energy future for San Diego. That’s why they found the forum so interesting and engaging – and it left them wanting more similar opportunities.

The day’s discussions built upon the growing momentum for San Diego to be a statewide leader in climate action; emphasized the unified vision for a prosperous, clean and healthy region; and served as a reminder of the importance of facilitating clean air and clean energy solutions sooner, rather than later.

About Hanna Grene