by Christophe A. G. Tulou | How many people does it take to screw in a high-efficiency LED light bulb? How many to plant and maintain a vegetated green roof? Install solar panels on a rooftop? Weatherize a house? Install a rain garden?
Since all these activities are happening now in the District of Columbia, wouldn’t it be good to know? Especially since they represent a new wave of job-creating, environmentally-friendly activities called a “green economy”?
According to a Brookings Institution’s report, Sizing the Clean Economy, the Washington, DC metropolitan area ranks fourth among 100 of the largest metropolitan areas in the US in the growing green economy, which totaled 70,828 clean jobs in 2010. The District had (employed 22,462 people in clean jobs) 22,462 clean jobs in 2010 (with a 1.5% annual growth rate from 2003 to 2010).
As part of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative, growing the green economy and the jobs it creates is front-and-center. The Mayor has made clear he plans to establish the District as the nation’s healthiest, greenest and most livable city. DDOE and other agencies are already working hard to make this a reality. Last year, DDOE established—pursuant to DC Council’s forward-focused Clean and Affordable Energy Act—the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DC SEU), one of the first of its kind in the country. The DC SEU is a private contractor that develops, coordinates, and provides programs that promote the sustainable use of energy in the District. Its job is simple enough: reduce per capita energy consumption by one percent per year; reduce the peak demand for energy; reduce energy consumption by the District’s highest energy users; encourage robust adoption of renewable energy; focus particularly on low-income communities, and create green jobs. Green jobs include the jobs of people who audit energy use in buildings, put in weather stripping, add the insulation, replace drafty windows, install high-efficiency furnaces and air conditioners, install solar units, and . . .yes. . . replace inefficient light bulbs.
In five short months in 2011, the DC SEU created employment for 357 District residents as temporary field staff, permanent office staff, and project-specific implementation contractors. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The DC SEU is obliged to increase those jobs each year as it invests more in the District’s energy reliability, security, innovation, and efficiency. Additionally, almost 75% of the funds paid to green jobs contractors went to the District’s Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) contractors.
Through Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative—which has engaged over a thousand citizens to help define our sustainable future—many ideas are surfacing that could substantially build on our solid fourth-place green economy foundation. Among suggestions under active consideration are: urban farms on vacant spaces and rooftops; significant improvements in building energy efficiencies; more renewable energy installations; a smart electric grid; millions of additional square feet of green roofs; green streets and alleys; LED street lighting throughout the city; many more electric vehicle charging stations, streetcars, more bike lanes; recycling and composting facilities; and the list goes on.
All these steps move us toward that healthy, green and livable city the Mayor envisions, and all create jobs. Many are highly accessible jobs—such as planting and nurturing the over one million square feet, or nearly 30 acres, of green rooftops already in place—and others require more specialized capabilities, like weatherization and renewable energy installations, which our universities and community college, and community-based organizations are poised to teach. Come to think of it, we are not just talking green jobs; we are plotting green careers.
Just imagine what we can create with our collective imaginations, creativity, and hard work.
Christophe A. G. Tulou is the Director of District Department of the Environment.