Local 'clean' economy growing, but not as fast as nation's

The Baltimore region's "clean" economy — green energy, pollution-reduction services and the like — accounts for nearly 23,000 jobs but is not growing as robustly as clean industries nationwide, according to a report due out Wednesday.

The region added clean-economy jobs at a rate of 2.6 percent a year between 2003 and 2010, ranking it 76th among the nation's 100 largest metro areas, according to the study by the Brookings Institution.

Mark Muro, who co-authored the report for the Washington think tank, said the Baltimore-area clean economy has a lot of slower-growing, mature industries such as waste management and fewer rapid-growth upstarts in clean technology.

Brookings believes the clean niche is an important part of the country's growth prospects and must be encouraged. Clean sectors offer more opportunities than the economy as a whole for workers to earn good pay without years of higher education, Brookings said.

Clean industries are also poised for "massive" expansion globally, Muro said.

"While they are relatively small now, they are growing fast, and they're technology-intensive and innovation-intensive," said Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program.

Without a focused national effort, though, the study's authors fear the country will fall behind in the race to capitalize on the clean economy. Last year, they said, China invested more than twice as much money as the United States to finance clean-energy projects.

In both the Baltimore area and statewide, the clean economy accounts for 1.7 percent of all jobs, Brookings said. Nationwide, that figure is 2 percent.

Brookings estimates the typical wage for a clean-economy job at just under $45,000 a year in the region and the state, modestly higher than the typical pay for all jobs.

"When we talk about the new economy, these are absolutely the types of jobs we're excited about," said Michael Raia, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The state is working to encourage entrepreneurial efforts in green fields and to train workers in green skills, from installing solar panels to retrofitting buildings for better energy efficiency, Raia said.

"We're going to keep working hard to identify opportunities in the green economy," he said.