Faces of an American Recovery: Clean Energy Jobs

The Recovery Act reoriented America to the future and refocused our efforts on our strengths. Our strength has always been our ability to innovate. Our weakness is our addiction to oil.

The tax credits and $90 billion clean energy investment in the Recovery Act has been a launching pad for job growth. This week, my Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming heard from businesses that are on the front lines of the economic turnaround.

In a recent blog post, former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt and I argued that America must follow the blueprint of the 1990's telecommunications revolution. Our goal must not simply be to create jobs, but to launch entire new industries in efficiency, wind, solar, advanced batteries, and other critical growth sectors. Here are just a few examples of how the clean energy provisions in the Recovery Act are meeting this challenge head-on:

The State of Ohio, whose Director of Department of Development testified today, has already weatherized more than 8,100 homes since last July and is ahead of schedule in reaching their goal of 32,000 homes. This has allowed 1,500 workers to keep their jobs while creating an additional 1,000 new jobs in Ohio. Best of all, the low income households receiving the efficiency work will save $350 a year on their energy bills -- that translates into a $1.67 return for every dollar invested in weatherization.

Suniva, a solar company in Georgia, is using an advanced, home-grown solar technology to leapfrog the competition and sell into the global market. They are exporting 90 percent of their solar panels and are sold out through mid-2011. In the process, they have been able to leverage Recovery Act support to grow the company from 2 employees in 2007 to 150 today. A quarter of this workforce is returned veterans and highly skilled autoworkers who had been laid off when the local plants closed.

A decade ago, we had a grand total of 470 megawatts of solar electricity installed in the United States. With the Recovery Act, we installed 480 megawatts of solar in 2009 alone. In 2010, the solar industry is likely to bring online the capacity equivalent of a new nuclear power plant. Solar energy programs in the Recovery Act supported more than 10,000 new jobs in 2009, and it is likely to support another 30,000 in 2010.

Four years ago, 25 percent of the components of a wind turbine was made in America. Today, more than 50 percent is made in America. Annual additions of wind power have quadrupled during that time, from less than 2,500 megawatts in 2005 to nearly 10,000 megawatts last year. When the wind factories supported by the Recovery Act come online over the next couple years, the average American content is likely to be over 70 percent.

First Wind Holdings, out of my home state of Massachusetts, was able to leverage wind incentives in the Recovery Act to raise more than $1 billion in private investment and install more than 400 megawatts of new wind capacity in Maine, New York, and Utah. This work supported more than 1,000 jobs in 2009.

Nothing has the potential to wean us from imported oil more than electric vehicles. And advanced batteries are going to power these electric vehicles rolling off American assembly lines.

Asia owns 98 percent of that market today. With Recovery Act investments, however, U.S. global market share is projected to rise to 20 percent next year and 40 percent by 2015. We are essentially creating a brand new American industry - one we should have never fallen behind on in the first place. Johnson Controls even informed Congress that they are "reverse" outsourcing -- moving jobs from overseas back to the United States to produce not just battery packs for vehicles, but the entire supply chain that feeds into them.

Now, imagine how many jobs that we can create once we stop sending $250 billion a year overseas for oil and start sending money to the workers in Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio who are building our electric batteries.