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San Francisco Expands Green Jobs Program

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Every day more San Francisco residents and businesses are signing up for two San Francisco programs that will cut monthly utility bills and help the City meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. One is SF Energy Watch, which provides technical assistance and financial incentives that pays over half the cost of energy efficiency upgrades to commercial and multifamily properties. The other is GoSolarSF, which, when combined with federal tax credits and state incentives, can reduce the cost of installing a residential solar power system by more than 50 percent.

In the past 2 years, 1,500 businesses and multifamily properties have saved over $5.7 million in energy bills through SF Energy Watch. The program has also delivered 6 megawatts (MW) of energy efficiency savings, which in turn reduces the amount of energy generation we need from polluting power plants.

San Francisco currently has nearly 8 MW of in-City solar power, including the massive installation at Moscone Center. But the real San Francisco solar gold rush came when we rolled out GoSolarSF in July 2008. In the first seven months, 640 residents and enterprises had taken advantage of the program's considerable incentives, applying to install nearly 2 MW of clean, renewable energy -- 25 percent of the City's overall solar portfolio.

All of this activity has been a big boost for companies that provide energy efficiency and solar services in the Bay Area. Because of the way San Francisco has structured these programs; local companies that hire locally benefit the most. SF Energy Watch has helped to sustain and/or expand companies--both service providers and suppliers--and currently supports 150 new and ongoing jobs in this emerging green field.

GoSolarSF has specific bonus incentives for employers who hire new staff through the City's workforce development program. We have placed dozens of new employees in the local solar industry, and of the 640 projects under GoSolarSF, 83 percent are employing workforce development trainees.

On Tuesday of this week I introduced a resolution that will expand the SF Energy Watch program by nearly $4 million. The money for SF Energy Watch comes from California's Public Goods Charge, a fund for renewable energy and energy efficiency that you pay into with a percentage of every utility bill.

These additional funds will allow the companies that provide energy efficiency services to add an additional 30 new employees on top of the 150 already employed.

SF Energy Watch and GoSolarSF help build the local economy and develop a skilled local workforce for the exploding green tech industry. But most importantly, these jobs are sustainable. They are not based on a single project, so when completed, the jobs do not disappear. Instead, these programs are open-ended, and in the case of GoSolarSF, supported by city legislation that helps feed the process. And I can see a time coming shortly when residential and commercial energy efficiency will be required by local or even statewide mandates.

On a final related note, last September I announced the Mayor's Solar Founders' Circle. This initiative served to inject an important new element in our solar efforts: providing free energy efficiency audits together with solar assessments for any business or non-profit in the City that wants it. This "efficiency first" approach is the smartest path to cost savings when planning to go solar. Energy efficiency improvements to a property will decrease the size of the solar array needed to cut utility bills.

Listen to Mayor Newsom's Green 960 radio show online or subscribe to his weekly policy discussions on iTunes. On the show this week Mayor Newsom talks with the founder of SunTech, one of the world's biggest solar companies. Join Mayor Newsom on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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