Analysis of our current economic situation yields a gloomy outlook. The U.S. is currently experiencing an economic slowdown, $20 trillion of national debt, and an unnerving unemployment rate. However, a solution may be presenting itself in the form of an initial guideline to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, proposed on June 2, 2014, by the Environmental Protection Agency, under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. This plan is an opportunity to not only limit our carbon pollution but also to inject life back into our domestic workforce.
How can a plan that proposes to retire coal power plants create jobs? Here are the 8 answers to your question.
Back in 2009, The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that a national renewable electricity standard seeking to cut 25% of carbon emissions by 2025 would generate 297,000 jobs, $263.4 billion in new capital investment and $95.5 billion in lower electricity by 2030. The potential economic benefits of expanding our renewable energy technologies are substantial. Renewable energy technologies are typically more labor-intensive than fossil fuel technologies which are intensely mechanized and capital intensive.
Solar panels will need to be manufactured, sold, installed and maintained. In 2011, the solar industry employed over 100,000 workers. Before the EPA ruling came out, solar jobs were expected to experience a growth rate of 24%, thereby creating 24,000 net new solar jobs the next year. In fact, sales and distribution employed about 23,910 people in 2012 and installation employed 65,571 people. With respective growth rates of 22% and 35%,that’s an additional 5,260 and 22,950 jobs.
Imagine the growth possible in the wind turbine manufacturing market when the amount of domestically manufactured equipment used in wind turbines jumped from 35% in 2006 to 70% in 2011 with 560 factories directly employing 75,000 full-time employees.
The hydroelectric power industry employed 250,000 people in 2009, and if the hydropower industry were to install a new capacity of 23,000 MW-60,000 MW by 2025, the total amount of jobs required to meet that target could generate as many as 700,000 jobs.
In 2010, the geothermal industry directly employed 5,200 people. Now with approximately 248,672,710 acres of public lands in the Western US are areas identified with geothermal potential and a single geothermal plant generating about 860 jobs, the potential job market is huge!
By 2030, the EPA projects natural gas to account for 32% of our electricity generation. The construction alone will require an additional 62,500 workers to meet this standard. This isn’t even accounting for the growing numbers of geoscientists, gas drillers and seismic crews, the plant operators, terminal operators, truckers and landsmen and all of the other 311,000 currently employed people needed to operate the US natural gas industry.
The construction sector is expected to experience quite the growth. The implementation of new solar, wind or other renewable energy sources, besides needing construction workers to build those plants and factories and offices, will require the construction of more power lines. This is particularly necessary for states wishing to export their renewable power to other states. This represents massive construction job creation.
As renewable energies become more accessible, one can observe a parallel development of the energy efficiency education market. People need to be trained on how to make, install and maintain a solar panel, or build green buildings. We need clean-tech training providers in order to have a competent sustainable workforce.
Vast investments will be made to increase grid efficiency, and to store the energy collected from our various renewable sources. Every renewable project will necessitate a variety of engineers, technicians, computer programmers and mechanics in areas that range from electrical, civil, information technology, systems management, waste management, simulation modelling, operations, structural to energy analysis and the list goes on and on.
All of these numbers barely scratch the surface of the economic benefits of an expansion of renewable energy sources as they do not take into account the jobs and capital investment that would be generated by indirect and induced employment.
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