As an electrical contractor specializing in solar installations, Tim Ehmann believes without question that green energy is our nation's future. Testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business in mid-January, Ehmann tried to impart the basis behind this belief to members of the House by explaining the importance of including energy-efficient building projects in proposed economic stimulus legislation.

A member of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), Ehmann was invited to speak on the association's behalf at the committee's hearing on “The State of the Small Business Economy and Identifying Policies to Promote an Economic Recovery.” In addition to handling traditional electrical construction work as senior project manager for O'Connell Electric Co., Victor, N.Y., Ehmann currently serves on NECA's Energy Solutions Task Force and is a certified installer of photovoltaic panels for Rochester Solar Technologies, the alternative energy division of O'Connell Electric.

In his testimony, Ehmann focused on two elements NECA members believe should be included in economic stimulus legislation: incentives for renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind, and specific incentives that will help provide opportunities for America's small businesses.

Although much of President Obama's $1 trillion stimulus plan emphasizes significant investment in transportation and infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and dams, Lake Coulson, NECA's executive director, government affairs, says it's not enough. “While these traditional building projects will help spur economic growth and create jobs, they overlook the need to improve our schools, hospitals, and public facilities by investing in green energy construction,” he says.

Ehmann echoed this view at the hearing, explaining potential benefits of making building construction part of the economic stimulus package. According to reports published by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) and NECA's ELECTRI International, Ehmann noted that an economic expansion based on emerging green markets would create an estimated 3 million jobs, including hundreds of thousands for electrical contractors, and help establish communities with high-performance buildings that are both economically advantageous and environmentally conscious.

Also urging the committee to extend federal incentives for renewable energy sources, Ehmann pointed out that national investment in green building and energy conservation is the key to making a real difference in the economy and environment.

“I have witnessed first hand the effects of what happens to jobs, to business growth, and to the economy when these incentives are suspended or reduced,” Ehmann testified. “If the cost of market entry is not addressed and the investments are not made to incentivize the renewable energy markets, I assure you that the electrical contracting industry, as well as numerous other industries, will become stagnant or contract, which means job loss and reduced business revenues.”

The full text of Ehmanns's testimony is available on the association's Web site at www.necanet.org.