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This Week in Clean Economy: NJ Governor Seeks to Divert $210M from Clean Energy Fund

Christie's budget would empty the clean energy fund and take all that's left of RGGI revenues. Meanwhile, in the EU, green jobs pass the million mark.

Feb 24, 2012
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Chris Christie delivers FY2013 budget address at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J.

A similar but opposite scenario is playing out in New Hampshire. The Republican-controlled House resurrected its bid this month to bow out of RGGI. Last year Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have ended the state's participation.

This time House legislators are trying a new tactic. On Feb. 14, a trio of state representatives introduced a bill that would gradually lower New Hampshire's emissions requirements under RGGI ahead of a complete withdrawal on Jan. 1, 2015.

But the bill hasn't moved out of the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, and state Rep. James Garrity, the committee chair, told Seacost Online that there doesn't seem to be enough momentum around the RGGI issue to advance the measure. "People are tired of the whole discussion," he said. "I think there seems to be nationally and regionally ... fatigue about this issue."

New Hampshire has brought in about $35 million in RGGI proceeds from the last 14 quarterly auctions. The program added $17 million to the state's economic output and roughly 460 jobs to its economy in the past three years, according to the Analysis Group study.

Green Jobs in Europe Pass the One-Million Mark, led by Germany

Over in Europe, clean energy industries have officially crossed the one-million jobs mark for the first time.

A report released Feb. 13 by the European Commission found that more than 1.14 million people in the European Union held a clean energy job in 2010, a 25 percent increase from 2009. Revenues for EU renewable energy firms jumped 15 percent during that period to roughly $170 billion.

About 795,000 of those jobs, or 70 percent, are in three industries: photovoltaic (PV) solar, wind and biomass. Germany led the pack, with almost half the jobs, or 361,000 positions. France came in second with 175,000 jobs, and Italy ranked third.

The United States, whose population is about two-thirds the size of the EU, employed some 263,000 people in 2010 in solar PV, wind and biomass, according to figures tallied by InsideClimate News from industry trade groups. Even with the population difference that left the U.S. trailing the EU bloc in these sectors.

Europe's renewable energy industries have been adding jobs rapidly since the 2010 jobs count, reported BusinessGreen, a UK green news site. In the UK alone solar jobs have tripled to at least 20,000 positions since the 2010 jobs count. In Germany, the number of solar jobs increased 10 percent since 2010, to 120,000 positions today, according to the German Solar Industry Association.

However, the progress in the German solar sector could evaporate with coming subsidy cuts for solar PV installations, industry officials warn. The country is the world's largest solar market by installations.

On Thursday, the German government agreed to enact the next round of cuts in solar subsidies on March 9, four months ahead of schedule. The decision came after the industry installed 7.5 gigawatts of solar panels in December alone, equal to six nuclear power stations.

Its feed-in tariff could also drop by 20 percent for smaller rooftop solar panels and as much as 30 percent for larger power plants, Reuters reported. Feed-in tariffs require utilities to buy clean electricity from solar plants at above-market prices so renewables can compete with conventional sources.

Germany's solar industry says the federal subsidy cuts could lead to layoffs. "Thousands of solar industry jobs in Germany are now in jeopardy," said Carsten Koernig, managing director of the German Solar Industry Association. "The sector cannot handle additional cuts of between 20 to 30 percent and this move will greatly slow down the expansion of solar power in Germany."

Several thousand employees of about 50 Germany solar firms held rallies across the country on Thursday following the announcement, the Associated Press reported. 

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