Bring up any policy idea in D.C. and the conversation always reverts to jobs and the economy. Rightfully so. Our nation’s unemployment continues to hover just above 8% and cities and states continue to struggle to create economic growth and jobs that can last.
But a look around the country will show you that innovative partnerships are forming to address our nation’s unemployment epidemic and get Americans back to work. And one place where we’ve seen impressive growth is in the green economy and energy efficiency. That’s why I’m encouraged that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is reviewing public-private partnerships across the country that have demonstrated successes in financing energy efficient upgrades.
During these challenging times, especially when energy prices continue to climb, we need our elected leaders to invest in programs that are proven to spur growth, reduce pollution and create new opportunities for businesses and workers.
One of the initiatives the Senators will hear about today is the Clean Energy Works Oregon program, which was based off of a partnership between Green For All, the City of Portland, businesses and community groups that put people back to work making energy efficient upgrades in homes across the city. The financing mechanism for this program was a revolving loan fund that allowed residents to pay back low-interest loans for energy efficient upgrades through a small fee on their utility bills.
Thanks to a $1.1 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), Clean Energy Works Portland improved the energy efficiency of 500 homes in Portland, spurring nearly $7 million in homeowner investment and employing nearly 400 workers. At the end of the day homeowners rates dropped, businesses and workers got new opportunities and, most importantly, the pollution-based Portland economy began to transition to a green, clean economy. And now this successful program is being expanded to the entire state and Green For All is proud to be part of this exciting initiative.
We know these models work, which is why we continue to identify new ways for cities and community organizations to work together to improve their energy efficiency. And we’ve taken it beyond single family housing through our MPower program to allow multi-family affordable housing owners to finance similar projects.
These are just a few real-world examples of what a federal investment can mean to a city’s economy, its workers – ultimately changing the way people use energy. Legislation has been proposed to achieve these goals, like Senators Shaheen and Portman’s energy saving incentives bill, but these initiatives seem to get stuck in the political gridlock that’s become the norm for DC.