Proposed clean-energy projects could boost Clark County

State leaders will seek $20 million from legislature

By Libby Clark, Columbian Web Editor

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State leaders will seek $20 million from the legislature next year to fund three clean-energy projects aimed at long-term job creation, state Department of Commerce director Rogers Weed said Thursday.

“Mandates and incentives aren’t as effective as market-driven technology applications” in creating jobs, Weed said. “By defining projects like this you push through a lot of barriers that slow down energy innovation.”

If funded, such an initiative could help companies in Clark County’s emerging clean-technology sector get a leg-up on national and global competition.

The proposal will face an uphill battle for funding in the Legislature, however, as it competes with other programs for a slice of the state budget. Legislators would likely need to pursue other funding sources besides the state’s general fund, for example by introducing a new charge on in-state electricity sales or a tax on power generated in Washington but sold to California or other places.

“We have to have a balanced budget,” said Rep. Jim Jacks, a Democrat representing Clark County in the state legislature. “But when times are bad, there’s an opportunity to shuffle the deck. People are willing to try new things.”

The funding proposal is part of the final draft of a state report that Weed presented to Southwest Washington business leaders at a Columbia River Economic Development Council luncheon Thursday in Vancouver. Mandated by the 2009 Legislature, it is the product of the state Clean Energy Leadership Council’s year-long exploration into the industry’s most promising opportunities.

Weed said implementing the plan, drafted by Navigant Consulting, would create an estimated 50,000 jobs in Washington over the next 10 years and help make the state a leader in four key areas of the clean-energy sector: energy efficiency and green building, renewable energy resource integration, smart grid and bio energy.

These four areas of focus were chosen because they are already growing and contributing to Washington’s economy and they have the potential to produce significant export opportunities for the state.

Southwest Washington businesses with specialties in advanced lighting have already demonstrated that the area could participate in the statewide effort as part of a project focused on energy efficiency and green building, Weed said.

The presence of 3,000 Bonneville Power Administration employees in Vancouver also makes Clark County a potential hub for electric transmission-related technologies, said Bart Phillips, CREDC’s chief executive officer.

The Clean Energy Leadership Council will work over the next two to three months to finalize the report before submitting it to the legislature in January.