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RNP News Item
November 15, 2011

Real Numbers Unveil Oregon's Unprecedented Renewable Energy Job Growth

RNP Pursues Correction to The Willamette Week's Wrong Report

Recently, The Willamette Week newspaper made a major mistake in a report about clean energy jobs. This error offered an opportunity to make a pointed public correction, while shedding light on the story of how clean energy investments have driven related job growth at unprecedented rates. Despite our numerous correction attempts, The Willamette Week declined on issuing a follow-up report.This was a disservice to thousands of good people and businesses that comprise our regional workforce. Readers deserve the facts about what Oregon’s clean energy investments deliver; incorrect data and incomplete reporting negatively impact one of the nation’s leading economic development success stories and dangerously hinder public will for clean energy progress just when the need is more urgent than ever. We thus publicly share the correspondence below and encourage readers to share it widely.

– Erin Greeson, Renewable Northwest Project

 


Letter from Renewable Northwest Project to The Willamette Week sent October 14, 2011 with follow-up by phone and email October 17 and November 1:

     

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my feedback about the recent “Outgreened and Uncounted” report.

Oregonians deserve to know exactly what ROI clean energy investments bring – which is why it’s critical to base reporting on accurate data.

The Brookings Institute study – which serves as the backbone of your article’s exploration – is extremely inaccurate, undercounting clean energy jobs in Oregon by thousands. Brookings has acknowledged the mistaken data and is respectfully partnering with the Portland Development Commission (PDC) to correct it to accurately reflect the status of this fast growing industry and its associated workforce. For example, according to data obtained from Dun and Bradstreet in early 2011, which was used for the Brookings study, Iberdrola Renewables and SolarWorld had less than five jobs in Oregon. Data collected by the PDC shows that Iberdrola Renewables hosts 400 jobs in Oregon and SolarWorld employs 1,050. According to the Brookings Study, Oregon has 300 solar and 317 wind jobs in Oregon, but PDC numbers indicate 1,790 solar manufacturing and 1,199 wind energy jobs alone, not counting supply chain and support businesses (see attached PDC spreadsheet tallying wind and solar jobs). According to Brookings, the clean tech segments of the green economy in Oregon - especially renewable wind and solar energy sectors - grew so rapidly that typical sources of data used to count jobs were ineffective. Even with the undercounting of jobs, Brookings ranked Oregon second in the U.S. for clean energy jobs as a share of total state employment.

Brookings' explanation of the data error is key: it is a testament of Oregon’s clean energy success story; Oregon chose clean energy investments as part of our economic development plans as well as part of our vision to reduce pollutants associated with public health concerns, environmental quality issues and climate change. This is something to celebrate, and something for our community to be aware of through outlets like the Willamette Week. The public should be aware of how energy decisions today impact our future.

This year, we at Renewable Northwest Project proudly announced an economic development landmark: Oregon reached a $5.4 billion dollar level of investment in our state, due to the renewable industry presence we have attracted. Leaders from rural counties, schools, businesses and labor groups stood with us to detail the ways in which that investment is breathing life into hard-hit economies, creating jobs that are a “godsend” for construction forces and cultivating the workforce of the future. As we celebrated this progress, we also underscored that the work has only just begun; fossil fuel still vastly outweighs new renewable generation on the grid, and we must diversify our energy mix with solutions least-cost, least-risk solutions for the long-term.

I encourage you to write a follow-up report further examining the issue of clean energy investment ROI; there are many compelling angles to consider. One would be to examine the context of the alternative - failing to invest in clean energy - such as the costs and risks associated with volatile fossil fuel prices, public health concerns and damage to land and ecosystems caused by pollutants, extraction and climate change. Another would be to look at fossil fuel subsidies; since the 1920’s, tax payers have footed permanently-embedded subsidies for fossil fuels, while subsidies that support renewable energy development are a small fraction of that sum and are rendered through temporary initiatives as opposed to stable policies that drive industry growth (see attached Department of Energy graphic on subsidies). There is also the issue of local clean energy policy; Oregon’s supportive policies attracted leading renewable energy companies and their economic development benefits; we need a continuously supportive policy and business climate to maintain such investment.

As we look to the future, we have a choice: to accept the energy economy status quo or to strive toward a safer, more viable future. We rely on accurate data to continually evaluate our clean energy economy progress. We appreciate the good work you are doing in focusing on these critical issues, and we are a resource to support your continued reporting.

Thank you, Corey, for considering the importance of this data correction request and proposed follow-up idea. I look forward to your thoughts and to either supporting a follow-up article or to contacting the editors with the correction request, depending on whatever you think best.

Kind regards,

Erin


Read Willamette Week's original article based on inaccurate data here:
http://wweek.com/portland/article-18041-outgreened_and_uncou.html 

Read the PDC's press release on Oregon's leadership in the clean energy economy.
http://pdc.us/new/releases/2011/news-release-2011-11-03.asp 

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