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San Diego’s smart grid could create up to 3,200 new jobs

20 November 2009 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A renewable energy “smart grid” program could create up to 3,200 new jobs in San Diego.

A group of 28 businesses and organizations, led by San Diego Gas and Electric, is making a pitch to the Obama administration for funding to create a smart energy grid in San Diego. If it is successful, it would bring $213 million in investment dollars, which would result in new jobs.

“This is a job creator,” said Byron Washom, director of strategic energy initiatives at UC San Diego, who spoke Thursday at the campus event announcing the proposal. SDG&E, UC San Diego and CleanTech San Diego are lead organizers in the project, which includes Qualcomm, SAIC, and BAE Systems.

“Not only in the high tech area, but this will be a creator of blue and green collar jobs,” said Washom. “There’s a tremendous amount of installation, manufacturing and engineering required.”

Smart grids

Smart grids are a more efficient way to create, store and distribute electricity than traditional power plants – and a key part of Obama’s green energy plan for the nation.  The stimulus budget calls for $4.5 billion for smart grids nationwide.

The San Diego proposal requested $100 million from the federal government, with the business group matching another $113 million if it is awarded. The proposal was submitted Aug. 26 and announcements are expected to be made by the end of the year. The new projects would roll out over the next one to three years, said Washom.

Green jobs

For every $1 million invested in this industry, seven to 15 new permanent jobs are created, said Washom. A $213 million investment would result in some 1,500 to 3,200 jobs.

“Green jobs are growing at a faster pace than the rest of the economy,” said Lee Krevat, director of smart grid for SDG&E. “Businesses thinking now of how to adapt their operations with the focus on environmental responsibility have the greatest chance of success in this new market.”

Kravet noted the smart grid is progressing more rapidly in San Diego than other regions. This is because of San Diego’s cul-de-sac geography, an influx of renewable energy in the region, and its tech-savvy customer base.

The power utility company is already moving to smart grid technology, installing 200,000 digital communication meters in homes by this year’s end. The number is expected to reach 1.4 million by end 2011. Job opportunities created include installation, home automation, energy management and monitoring systems, said Krevat.

“Most green jobs are high paying, requiring college level training,” said UCSD’s Washom. “It’s very skilled labor.”

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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