Tri-City Herald Staff writer, Michelle Dupler
There’s been a lot of talk in the Capital about green jobs since the Legislature went into session nearly a month ago. On Thursday, Tri-City business, science and technology leaders showed up to tell lawmakers that they need look no further than Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland to find green jobs in Washington.
Representatives from the Tri-City Development Council, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University Tri-Cities, Areva, Infinia, Energy Northwest and the Tri-Cities Research District came to talk to a joint session of two House committees focused on energy, technology and economic development.
The group touted what’s happening in the energy industry in the Tri-Cities, from production of clean wind and nuclear power to solar panels manufacturing. “At the U.S. Conference of Mayors held this past summer, the Tri-Cities ranked among the top 100 cities poised to have the most ‘green collar’ jobs, largely due to our technology assets and brainpower,” said TRIDEC spokeswoman Deanna Smith.
“We have more engineers and PhD’s per capita than anywhere else in the world,” she added. “The Tri-Cities can be a valuable and reliable resource in helping you put together a comprehensive energy plan and strategy for the state that can lead to the creation of green collar jobs, and foster entrepreneurism that will ultimately create the new technologies needed for additional sustainable and renewable energy.”
Renewable energy and green jobs have been a focal point of a plan to tackle greenhouse emissions by spurring new technologies that in turn will help create jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Smith and others said work being done in the Tri-Cities can help lead the way, but they also urged the Legislature to give technology businesses incentives to start up and stay in Washington, whether with tax breaks or by allowing small-scale hydro power plants to be classified as renewable resources.
A presentation by Jack Baker, vice president of energy and business service for energy Northwest, focused on how it has diversified beyond nuclear power to also include wind,solar and hydro power. The agency provides about 10 percent of the electricity distributed throughout the Northwest by the Bonneville Power Administration, he said. But with electric vehicles appearing to be the way transportation is headed, Baker said nuclear power will be needed to generate enough electricity.
“This is the message you want to hear,” Baker said. “I believe we are going to electrify our transportation, but the power is going to have to come from somewhere.” Diahann Howard, executive director of the Tri-Cities Research District, encouraged the Legislature to continue supporting development of innovation partnership zones that can attract technology start-ups, while Jason Modrell, Infinia’s manager of governmental programs and business development, gave examples of how it is developing solar technology.
Modrell said most of Infinia’s products are being sold in Spain because of government incentives there. He urged state lawmakers to consider similar incentives. John Holladay, PNNL’s chemical and biological process chief scientist, and Birgitte Ahring, director of WSU Tri-Cities’ Center for Bio-products and Bioenergy, touted the partnership between the laboratory and the university in developing technologies to convert biomass materials such as wheat, straw and wood waste into biofuels. “It’s something so obvious to me that the first thing we have to focus on is something already there,” she said.