Thursday, April 2, 2009

Energy efficiency, 'green' jobs targeted in bills

Former windmill guru Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, introduced three bills this week designed to squeeze more efficiency out of the nation's electrical grid and train young people for so-called "green" jobs.

The Smart Grid Advancement Act would require utility companies and states to plan for the use of technology that allows appliances such as refrigerators to reduce their draw on the electricity grid during peak use hours.

The shift would spread out demand for electricity and reduce costs associated with the construction of high-capacity plants required to meet the peak demand hours, McNerney said.

The Vehicles for the Future Act would require public utility commissions to develop plans for fee-based electrical charging stations for plug-in hybrid or electric cars.

"The average electric vehicle is a much more efficient way to move cars up and down the highway," said McNerney, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "It is the equivalent of 75 cents a gallon (of gas.) But the utilities need a way to know who is plugging in order to charge the appropriate person."

The GREEN Act seeks $100 million for the creation of college and career school training programs in "green energy" jobs. The Department of Education would award the funds throughout the nation in a competitive grant program.

"The smart grid and vehicles of the future are more long-term but the GREEN Act will have a more immediate impact because it Advertisementwill allow schools to develop programs right away to start teaching," McNerney said. "They will be able to hire teachers and get programs going right away so that workers will be available to put in projects like solar panels, windmills or geothermal projects."

To become law, the bills must win approval from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and be signed by the president.

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