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Green Workers Seek Better Pay As Industry Faces Losses

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

February 4, 2009

Even while leaders across the globe are calling for renewed efforts to create jobs in green energy, solar and wind power companies are being forced to lay off workers.

In Washington, hundreds of workers and environmentalists are gathering on Capitol Hill today for Green Jobs Advocacy Day to lobby for fair wages and other benefits for new, green jobs. The day is part of the Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference, a week-long event in DC.

Also this week, Senate Finance Committee member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and House Energy and Commerce Committee member Jay Inslee, D-Wash., urged Congress to make the creation of green jobs a top priority.

"Creating more green jobs is the path to a greener, more sustainable future for American families," said Stabenow.

Efforts to bolster environmental jobs are sorely needed at this time. The New York Times reports that energy trade groups are predicting 30 to 50 percent declines of installation of new equipment this year. Solar energy companies such as OptiSolar, Ausra, Heliovolt, and SunPower have all been forced to cut its workforce as a result.

The problem is primarily attributed to Wall Street's credit crisis. Banks that once were lured by generous federal tax incentives to finance installation of wind turbines and solar arrays are no longer able to provide much-needed capital. The developers, as a result, are no longer able to install new equipment.

"It's absolutely frozen," remarked Graig Mataczynski, president of Renewable Energy Systems Americas. His company, a wind developer, is expected to build less than half of what it did last year.

Yet "green-collar" workers, as President Obama referred to them, are hopeful that the industry will revive with help from the economic stimulus package, which calls for half a million new jobs in fields like renewable energy research, mass transit construction, and more. Some green careers include environmental engineers, environmental science technicians, and environmental engineering technicians.

In a related story, Topnews reports that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the proposed Green Energy Act would help create more than 50,000 jobs in the Canadian province over the next three years. The move is expected to protect the environment and combat climate change.

Regardless of these efforts, wind and solar energy industries expect to be facing a dry spell until government assistance takes effect. The price of solar panels is reported to have fallen by 25 percent in six months as demand has decreased. In addition, wind turbines which needed to be ordered far in advance are now readily available.

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