BOSTON -- Scott Newman was laid off in February from his job repairing home oil heaters, a victim of the dismal economy. Today, he sits in a class with a new job, learning how to sleuth out wasted energy in homes.
Newman is in the vanguard of a green-collar corps created by the nation's first carbon cap-and-trade program, operating in 10 northeastern states. Workers are being hired for a booming expansion of energy efficiency programs, financed by money raised from power companies paying for their carbon emissions under the program.
For Newman, 32, of Holden, Ma., the salary – about $50,000 a year – is important. But the job has other attractions, he said: "Now, I'll be doing something a little more rewarding, more environmentally conscious. I'll be trying to help customers save some money; that's a good feeling. And this looks like a field that will be growing."
Call this the first fruits of the nation's new energy economy.
In a Boston suburb classroom at Conservation Services Group, a nonprofit that has been in the energy efficiency business for 25 years, Newman and 11 other men pore over a manual that dissects the structure of houses and how buildings use – and lose – energy.
Just started on their six-week training, they already are deep into dense terms: negative vent pressure, induced draft, heat exchangers, sealed combustion furnace components. Before they are done, instructor Mark Donovan will lead them through the intricacies of heating and air conditioning systems, hot water systems, venting, insulation and a host of rules, regulations and government programs offered to encourage homeowners to waste less energy. The new newly minted auditors then will fan out to make home energy inspections under a Massachusetts program administered through the utility National Grid.
"Every factor changes the dynamic of a house," Donovan, a lanky 32-year old, tells them. "When we go out to tighten up a house, we have to take everything into account."
Conservation Services Group, which operates in 22 states, has hired more than 70 people in the last few months, and expects to keep growing, according to CEO Stephen Cowell.
"The plans are in place. The demand is there from the customers. The work is being done. People are being hired," Cowell said. "For every staff person we hire, the independent contractors have to hire ten people. If we go in and spend four hours looking at a home and identify, on average, $2,500 to $3,000 worth of work people should do, that turns into four days of actual work."
The cap-and-trade program, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, is intended to force power producers in the northeastern states to cut greenhouse gas pollution by requiring them to buy allowances, which will shrink annually, to offset their emissions.