14 May 2009

Working Families Party Readies Green-Jobs Push.

May 12, 2009.
by: Daniel Massey

Labor-backed political group will announce program to retrofit 120,000 New York homes for higher energy efficiency.

The labor-backed Working Families Party—known for its campaigns advocating taxes on the rich and protesting against subway fare increases—is now looking to conserve a little energy and create jobs in the process.

The group’s policy arm, the Center for Working Families, will unveil a strategy Friday for New York state to achieve wide-scale, energy-efficient retrofits of 1 million housing units during the next five years. The program would create more than 14,000 full-time jobs over its five-year life. Pay would be pegged at living wage in the different areas where work will be performed, and contractors would receive preferences for local hiring.

It would be the largest residential retrofit program in the country’s history and could serve as a nationwide model on how to achieve the much-talked-about economic potential of green jobs. Municipal programs exist in places like Babylon, N.Y., and Berkeley, Calif., but thus far nobody has replicated the idea on a statewide level.

The announcement will be made along with the Center for American Progress and Half in Ten, both liberal policy groups. Van Jones, President Barack Obama’s special adviser on green jobs, is expected to give the keynote address at a launch event in Washington D.C. Friday.

The program would leverage $5 billion in private investments to pay for retrofits through the creation of a new homeowner financing model. That model would provide investors guaranteed returns of about 7%, based on projected homeowner savings that result from the green technology. Potential investors include the city and state pension funds and other institutional investors.

“With a relatively simple and small investment, we can make an intervention that has a huge impact,” said Emmaia Gelman, director of green policy for the Center for Working Families.

Residential buildings account for 21% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that can be lowered substantially through simple retrofits, Ms. Gelman contends.

The state Energy Research and Development Authority would run the program, but legislation is first needed to establish the investment fund and worker protections. The Center hopes to have Albany’s approval by the end of the current session in June.


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