Over the last week there has been quite a bit of discussion in the media about the number of jobs created by stimulus dollars. Some argue the money is being wasted and others that the amount of money allocated were never enough in the first place. Paul Krugman suggested that “the really bad news is that “centrists” in Congress aren’t able or willing to draw the obvious conclusion, which is that we need a lot more federal spending on job creation.”
Either way, as I wrote in a post called Color of Money, a lot of money has been allocated and has yet to be spent. The facts seem to agree that moving funds (and allocations for bond and tax credit programs) out to local governments and into broader circulation is taking a long time.
But, when it comes to energy efficiency in general and stimulus funding in specific, the Northwest is getting high ratings. In their 2009 state ranking of local implementation of energy efficiency programs, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks Oregon 3rd and Washington 7th among the top ten states for implementing energy efficiency policies.
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This is the third edition of the ACEEE’s annual ranking of states’ implementation of energy efficiency policies. The ranking is based on 6 policy categories: (1) utility-sector and public benefits programs and policies; (2) transportation polices; (3) building energy codes; (4) combined heat and power; (5) state government initiatives; and (6) appliance efficiency standards. States are given points in each of the six policy areas combined and are ranked out of a possible 50 points.
How does the ACEEE rating help us better understand whether stimulus dollars are ultimately going to be effective in the Northwest with green jobs creation? There isn’t enough information to know for sure, but based on what we learned in our research for our Green Collar Jobs Primer: Realizing the Promise, stoking demand for energy efficiencies through increasing standards, creating incentives and strong coordination of efficiency work are all key ingredients of green job creation. Oregon ranks high for creating multiple programs that do all these things.
The ACEEE credits Oregon for having upped requirements for energy efficiency in state buildings, having an effective performance contracting program in place and for its two financial incentive programs, the Business and Residential Tax Credit, to incentivize energy efficiency. Oregon doesn’t have to re-invent the energy efficiency wheel and has programs already working that can be enhanced with stimulus funding.
Just last week ShoreBank Enterprises Cascadia received a $40 million allocation of New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) as part of the stimulus package. The NMTC is a program that incentivizes investment in low income communities with a 39 percent tax credit. The credit allows investors a discount on their federal taxes after 7 years and makes lending to non-profits and community based organizations more appealing by creating better returns on the initial investment. Credits from NMTC can be used to invest in clean energy projects, training facilities and renewable energy infrastructure.
ShoreBank Enterprises Cascadia has great experience in what they describe as their triple bottom line: positive economic, ecological, and social benefits through engaging in market-based approaches. They created a loan program to help rural households upgrade or replace leaky septic systems and they are the lead financial agency in Clean Energy Works, a Portland program I wrote about most recently in a post called Green Collar Jobs Start With Basic Skills.
ShoreBank will use NMTC resources to provide loans and equity-like investments in severely distressed communities, especially rural and Native American communities and they already have projects in the works in the renewable and energy efficiency sectors that will benefit from the allocation.
The collaboration by ShoreBank , the City of Portland and the State is a big part of the reason Oregon has enacted so many far reaching and effective energy policies and programs, earning them them such a high rating from the ACEEE. There is still a lot more money to be allocated and dispersed. But effective partnerships also mean that Oregon has real projects lined up to benefit from stimulus dollars, which should offset much of the recent criticism that the stimulus isn’t creating jobs.