Green Jobs and the Need for Speed

The stimulus package promises billions for energy-efficiency projects. State and local governments must be ready to move quickly, and they will need to embrace new levels of accountability and transparency.
February 11, 2009 AT 3:00 AM
Edward DeSeve
By G. Edward DeSeve  |  Contributor
G. Edward DeSeve is a GOVERNING contributor. He has served in senior positions in academia, government and the private sector.

State and local governments will need to act quickly to take advantage of the billions of dollars that will be made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which has passed the House and is making its way through the Senate with strong support from President Obama. The stimulus bill recognizes that it is imperative for the federal government to partner with networks of states and cities in order to jump-start new green jobs and the economy as a whole.

More than $54 billion of the stimulus bill will go toward improving energy efficiency in private homes, public housing and federal buildings. This initiative is designed to create a more prosperous future by addressing several serious challenges facing our country: rising unemployment, outmoded buildings, climate change and dependence on foreign energy sources.

The bill envisions that many unemployed workers will find new, green jobs. These jobs are spread throughout several areas of industry, including construction, manufacturing, and research and development, as well as within government. The jobs will focus on both improving how energy is used today and on significantly increasing the availability and distribution of renewable energy.

Outmoded buildings will be retrofitted with energy-saving technologies created and installed by the green workforce. Retrofits will include significantly improving insulation, actively managing utility usage, and installing high-performing appliances. Money will also be available for installing renewable energy technologies such as solar, biomass and wind power. Energy efficiency and renewable energy will naturally reduce our country's output of greenhouse gases and lower our demand for oil and natural gas imports.

The first key management theme of the stimulus bill is speed. The stimulus bill requires that federal agencies rapidly move money to cities and states so it can be put to use as quickly as possible. State and local governments must take immediate action to be ready to launch shovel-ready projects and meet fast-moving timelines for using funds.

The second theme is accountability. Fund allocation, use and performance will all be closely monitored from the point of impact up to the White House, and contracts will need to be competitive. The stimulus bill is extremely large and complex, and its supporters have taken great pains to make sure that it doesn't repeat the accountability problems of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

A third management theme is transparency. All information about the planned and actual use of funds will be reported to a central Website, Information shared through is not intended for federal command and control. Instead, it is intended to be an empowering resource for the entire network of partners, so all participants can achieve optimum results.

For the near future, the intersection of energy efficiency and aggressive systems for tracking accountability will be very exciting. Innovation is a word used frequently in the stimulus bill, and we can expect to see new ways of simultaneously improving energy efficiency and government performance.

One essential area to be explored is networked government. The stimulus bill is designed in part to drive inventive new relationships between federal agencies, states, local governments, the private sector and not-for-profits. Agencies that create these relationship networks will be able to deliver much-needed technical assistance while also leveraging non-governmental resources.