Friday, November 21, 2014

Green – Is it in your Business or Career Plan?

By Nancy Najarian

Whether you are a government contractor looking for new sources of income, an association looking for ways to guide your members, or a frustrated job seeker wondering how to apply your skills to a new type of job, now is a good time to think about green.

The US, state and local governments are moving toward supporting renewable and alternative energy, and energy efficiency through a series of grants, government contracts, and tax credits to individuals and companies. Educational and training opportunities available at community colleges and from associations are becoming more prevalent and accessible. The goal is to prepare a workforce, including displaced housing construction workers and those working in the fossil fuel industries, to take the helm in a green economy. Navigating the opportunities, whether to find a government grant, contract, or retrain your workforce or self can be confusing. Here are a few guidelines with which to begin.

Green Mandate

Green is a mandate for the US government. The General Service Administration’s (GSA) first Chief Greening Officer Eleni Reed told Federal News Radio in an interview on June 15, 2010, "the ultimate goal is to enhance the environmental performance of the GSA portfolio."
- The entire portfolio of public buildings owned and leased by the US government is nearly 10.000 buildings or 361 million square feet.
President Obama’s Executive Order of October 5, 2009 set the stage for the GSA and other federal agencies to implement energy efficiency. Ms. Reed explained that the order, "…sets out specific goals for federal agencies to really drive environmental performance…such as:
- reducing greenhouse gas emissions,
- increasing energy efficiency,
- reducing water consumption, and
- looking at preventing and reducing waste to name only a few.”
How are the GSA, the US military, and other federal entities going to implement these goals? Are there enough manufacturers, installers, and service companies to do the work? How can you capture a portion of this market in the coming years?

Next Step: Grants to Support R&D, and Commercialization of New Technology and Practices

Currently, the federal, state, and local governments are providing grant money to spur the development of renewable and alternative energy sources, and develop energy efficient practices. These grants are available whether you are an individual, educational institution, or for-profit company. A bigger challenge is to bring the results of R&D to the marketplace, and make the US competitive with foreign sources of renewable energy technology and energy efficient practices. To help accomplish this, Congressman Ed Markey introduced an amendment to HR 2454, American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed in June, 2009. Section 171 of the bill proposed Energy Innovation Centers, “to…ensure that the United States maintains a technological lead in developing and deploying state-of-the-art energy technologies.” Despite differences on Cap and Trade voiced during this month’s Senate debate on Climate Change, the need for “a comprehensive energy plan to address a whole host of issues… incentivizing businesses, providing grants and loans to our businesses…” was recognized. (Senator Brown, The Hill, June 16, 2010).
State grant money flowing from the Department of Energy was at first focused on R&D.
However, these grants are increasingly including an element of commercialization.
Foundations and other organizations with grant money are seeking applications to support the start up, incubation, and commercialization of green services, technology, and products. Grant funds are beginning to flow with the intent of bringing into mainstream business energy efficient practices, renewable energy technologies, and companies and trained workers prepared to support green industries.

Government Contracting, Where the Business Is

The US government wants to set an example of green. A mandate to make energy efficient all the federal buildings in the next five years has tasked the General Services Administration, Armed Forces, and other agencies with sourcing and using green contractors to renovate and retrofit their buildings and operations. Fulfilling this mandate with a nascent US green industry will require a workforce and manufacturing sector that is synonymous with all hands on deck. How do you get on board?
- Begin brainstorming as to how your company, association, or individual expertise can be applied to a government contracting company that needs to branch out into this area.
- For a nominal fee begin courses to learn how to transfer your company’s design, construction and/or renovation experience to retrofitting and renovating government owned and leased properties.
- Investigate online the building associations, both national and local, that are offering green certification programs. These programs train individuals in methods, materials, and designs for creating energy savings, using energy efficient practices, and incorporating renewable energy technology into residential and commercial facilities.
- If you are a resourceful person who has advised companies on other managerial, financial, tax, and operational matters consider transferring your skills to advising on green. Companies large and small are seeking ways to reap the benefits from tax credits, federal and state grants, commercial rebates, and green certifications.
One word of caution when embarking on this new venture, do conduct due diligence on any person, company, or educational organization offering you knowledge, licensing, or technology labeled green. Just as in any new industry, you can have good, bad, and so-so experiences. Make yours a good one.
It looks like green, both the color and concept, may help brighten the future for us all.

No comments: