The California Energy Commission and Santa Barbara County’s Workforce Investment Board, Housing & Community Development Department hosted the Central Coast Region’s Building Energy Retrofit Summit, during which officials on state, regional, and local levels came together with contractors (Friday, May 7, 2010 at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion) to figure out how to make the economy greener.

Catalyzed by environmental concerns and the current economic recession, speakers determined that, with an effort towards cooperation between the various levels of governmental and economic forces, green energy could be an effective, healthful way to stimulate the economy. Green business has huge potential to become lucrative because, speakers argue, it makes so much sense. It’s good for the environment, creates energy independence, and pays for itself. The problem, as always, is harnessing this potential.

A recession is a perfect opportunity for change, speakers said, because it throws everything up in the air and forces everyone to question the trajectory that led to it. The economy is failing because its logic is flawed, and hard-hit areas — such as trades and construction — have created a large potential workforce. This, presenters argued, is a perfect time for a shift. Necessary steps towards a green economy include building pathways between education and industry. Here, there are plenty of opportunities in technology, planning, transportation, building, and design.

From the State Assembly, Lois Capps discussed the Home Star Retrofit Act, which will make solar energy and home improvements more viable. The act is expected to create 170,000 jobs and save $10 billion in energy bills in the next decade. She urged Americans to address global warming and get greener, and to take these issues into consideration when planning the community, saying it’s time to “end the addiction to dirty and dangerous fossil fuels.”

A regional committee from the Central Coast spoke of the potential and the necessity to use the recession in a positive way to create jobs and a sustainable economy. The Central Coast economy, dominated by tourism and agriculture, could shift towards green energy, they said. The committee emphasized the importance of developing regional priorities and a regional action’s plan to give local governments a framework to guide local policy and implementation.

In this vein, the Santa Barbara County Energy Independence Commission is working as a liaison between residents and contractors and government, offering incentives for homeowners to update their homes in an energy-efficient manner, as well as assisting contractors. Speakers from the commission emphasized the importance of cooperation between public and private sectors, in order to benefit all parties involved and move forward.

Speakers admitted that none of these policies are perfect — there will be issues negotiating through the heft of permits, paperwork, and other such difficulties. However, they emphasized the movement towards a green economy as a whole and the implications thereof, trusting in that and allowing the rest to fall into place in good time.


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