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Moving quickly to rebuild the economy through clean energy

With a new President and Congress, we have an unprecedented opportunity to transform our fossil fuel economy to one based largely on clean energy, while creating millions of jobs in the process.

Last month, we offered a Clean Energy 2030 proposal for how the U.S. can dramatically scale up renewable energy, become smarter about how we use energy, and deploy millions of plug-in electric cars. Our energy team has continued crunching the numbers and just posted new data on job creation and cost savings on our knol. We'll keep updating the information and encourage everyone to take a look and comment - and offer alternative approaches if you disagree.

Reaching the goals of Clean Energy 2030 will require a comprehensive effort by the new President and Congress. At a minimum, we believe it should include putting a price on carbon emissions, setting national energy efficiency and renewable energy goals, and modernizing our electricity grid. With the right policies, we can drive trillions of dollars of new investment in clean energy and create millions of new jobs.

Stimulating the economy and creating jobs will be the first item of business when the new President and Congress take office in January. We hope that clean energy will be front and center. In its last effort to address the financial crisis, Congress passed several measures to advance clean energy, but much more needs to be done. Here are some ideas on how to advance clean energy as part of a stimulus package:

  • Get money flowing to renewable energy. Many wind and solar project developers can’t take advantage of the renewable tax credits that were just extended. The continuing economic decline has wiped out profits in many companies - and the otherwise expected tax liability that credits offset. Congress should make changes, such as making the credits refundable, to make it possible for investors to get the value Congress intended.
  • Start building a smarter electricity grid. The last large energy bill passed in 2007 authorized, but did not fund, matching grants and demonstration programs to encourage investment in a "smart" electricity grid. These programs should be fully funded and expanded so more consumers have the opportunity to better monitor and control their electricity use and reduce their bills. A new Department of Energy (DOE) sponsored book explaining smart grid describes it as "the internet brought to our electric system."
  • Help people make their homes more efficient. The DOE has a Weatherization Assistance Program that enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. On average, weatherization reduces households' heating bills by about 30%. President-elect Obama adopted our proposal to weatherize one million low income homes per year for the next 10 years. Current federal weatherization funding supports barely 10% of that number. A roughly $3 billion appropriation would weatherize roughly one million homes.
  • Green the Government. The U.S. government is the largest consumer of electricity. Accordingly, federal departments and agencies should lead by example when it comes to stimulating the economy through expanded energy efficiency efforts and increased use of clean energy. In addition, the Congress and the President can provide support to State and local governments for efficiency and smart grid projects; the purchase of renewable power; and converting vehicle fleets to low-emission vehicles, particularly plug-in electric cars and trucks. Such concerted government action will speed the advent of a new era of energy security and domestic job creation.
We need quick action to jumpstart the economy and improve energy security. If you have ideas to share, join the discussion on the Clean Energy 2030 knol.

Posted by Michael Terrell, Program Manager, and Harry Wingo, Policy Counsel, Google

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