Creating Jobs via Renewable Energy Adoption

Creating Jobs via Renewable Energy Adoption | 07/02/15
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Adding new jobs to the economy is always a good thing

In good times or bad, adding more jobs to the economy always equates to higher GDP, lower debt-to-GDP levels, lower unemployment insurance expenditures and higher revenues for governments from income tax and sales tax.

There are no examples where adding net jobs to an economy has resulted in a net loss to the economy

It’s positive for individuals too. Higher employment levels generally lead to higher incomes, small and large businesses notice increased revenue and there is always the chance that companies may begin to expand their facilities and hire more staff to handle increased sales.

Which is why the case to add more renewable energy is so compelling

IRENA Renewable Energy jobs infographic - Global
Global jobs created by the Renewable Energy industry. Image courtesy of IRENA.

Over decades of time, mature industries have figured out ways to increase output with fewer employees.

In the Top 10 on the mature industry list, must certainly be hydro-electric power plants, followed by nuclear power plants and gas-fired power plants. There we have astronomical installation costs and employment numbers — but once construction of the power plant is completed only very low staffing levels remain to operate the power plant.

Which is very unlike the case with renewable energy. Why? Because once a multi-billion dollar hydro-electric dam is built, it’s built. You don’t need to build thousands of them per day.

It’s the same with multi-billion dollar nuclear power plants — all you need after the construction phase ends are a small number of highly trained people to monitor the various systems. And some security people. That’s it.

With solar panels, a factory must produce 1000 per day (or more, in the case of larger factories) every weekday. Suitable markets must be found, factories must be built/leased, production floors must be built, materials sourced, and the panels themselves must be designed and engineered, assembled, packed, shipped and accounted for. Accountants do what they must do, marketing people manage a steady train of media events, trade shows and advertising programs, and on and on it goes — and all of it is a part of the solar industry. That activity creates work for thousands of people, every workday of the year. (And that short description doesn’t begin to cover it)

Then there are the solar panel installers, the sales teams/estimators, and the companies that build the inverter systems, which is a whole other value chain.

The wind power industry can also make high employment/lower power plant cost claims — although wind turbines average about $1 million dollars each — as opposed to solar panels which mostly range from $10 each to $400 each, depending on their size and composition.

Renewable energy is hugely labour-intensive and many thousands of permanent jobs are created — quite the opposite of conventional power generation

It is worth commenting that 2014 renewable energy employment numbers (once they become available) will show a significant improvement over 2013 numbers.

The entire industry is surging forward unequally, but renewable energy growth in some nations is trending upwards like the Millennium Falcon trends upwards.

Below is a breakdown graphic showing the labour intensity of the various types of renewable energy.

Globally, 6.5 million jobs were created in 2013 from renewable energy.
Globally, 6.5 million jobs were created in 2013 from renewable energy. Image courtesy of IRENA.

We can also look at a breakdown graphic of jobs per MW of electricity produced where we see that coal, nuclear, and oil & gas require very few humans per MW.

Potential jobs by MegaWatt (MW) by energy type. Image courtesy of IRENA.
Potential jobs by MegaWatt (MW) by energy type. Image courtesy of IRENA.

There’s no doubt that global energy demand is growing, not only in the developed world, but in the developing world as well.

Each kind of energy (non-renewable and renewable energy) has it’s own pros and cons.

One of them, is that non-renewable energy requires far fewer humans over the lifetime of the power plant.

Renewable energy on the other hand, is a rapidly-growing manufacturing, installation, and marketing industry that requires evermore blue collar and white collar employees.

And now that solar power, wind power, and biomass power have reached — or are within months of matching (per kWh) price parity with non-renewable power plants — the question becomes;

Do we want to employ 1.3 persons full-time per MW, or do we want to employ up to 24 people full-time per MW?

For comparison purposes, the typical coal, gas, or nuclear power plant can supply 1000 MW (or 1 GigaWatt) of electrical generation capacity, while the average wind turbine can supply 1 MW each.

The average 1 MW wind turbine costs about $1 million apiece, so to get 1 GW of electrical generation capacity, you need to install 1000 of them (1000 x $1 million each = $1 billion total) and the installation and connection to the grid of that many turbines might take up to 24 months.

Each 1 GW installation of coal, gas, or nuclear power, costs well over $1 billion and can take up to 15 years to construction completion.

For example, the 2.4 GW nuclear power plant under construction in Vogtle, Georgia was originally planned to cost $14 billion, but due to construction and regulatory delays (and now lawsuits between the principals involved) it may cost significantly more than that and the completion date has been extended by months, or even years.

At this point, the total cost may exceed $17 billion and it may take an extra year to complete — for a total of 2.4 GW of installed capacity over 11 years of construction and delays, at a total cost of $7.08 billion per GigaWatt. It won’t get any better than that, but it may get much worse.

The 10-year construction plan is already behind schedule by 14-months, and now faces an additional (up to) 18-month delay.

PennEnergy: Southern Co. might spend [another] $8B on nuclear plant
ABC News: Builder Projects 18-Month Delay for Nuclear Plant in Georgia

One point about Plant Vogtle (the official name of the plant) is that the two 1200 MW (1.2 GW) reactors are of the latest GE/Toshiba AP-1000 design, noted for their passive safety systems and additional safety redundancies built into the power plant. If you’re going to build a nuclear power plant it might as well be the safest one.

As new capacity is added to global electrical grids, more of it is renewable energy

More utility companies are adding new renewable energy capacity as opposed to adding new non-renewable energy capacity due to faster installation time frames, fewer regulatory delays, the lack of fuel supply concerns going forward, and total installation cost per GigaWatt.

In 2013, of the 207 GW added to the world’s electrical grids — renewable energy accounted for 120 GW of new installations, while 87 GW accounted for non-renewable energy.

Once the 2014 numbers are released to the public, the renewable energy statistic will have improved over 2013’s numbers. And 2016 should easily surpass the 70/30 metric.

It’s easy to visualize this in the chart below.

Global generation capacity additions to 2013 - renewables vs. non-renewables. Image courtesy of IRENA.
Global generation capacity additions – renewables vs. non-renewables. Image courtesy of IRENA.

As renewable energy displaces non-renewable energy additions to the grid — remember that renewable energy gets only 1/4 of the subsidies that fossil fuel energy gets!

See: Energy Subsidies: The Case for a Level Playing Field

Imagine if renewable power generation got the same subsidies as non-renewable energy power generation

In practical terms, it would mean that 100% of all new power generation would be renewable energy.

Also, the renewable energy manufacturing sector would need to accelerate production to meet demand — meaning many hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs would be created immediately after the levelized subsidy was announced.

Between 2017-2019 — and even with the higher subsidies enjoyed by coal, nuclear, and oil & gas — it will cost less to install new renewable energy power plants than to install new non-renewable energy power plants.

Germany is one of the countries leading the transition to renewable energy

Due to German public pressure in the aftermath of the Fukushima-Daiichi incident in March 2011, Germany shut down nearly half of their nuclear power plants and were forced to accelerate their transition timeline to renewable energy.

This unexpected development created additional costs for Germany, but regardless, their Energiewende program is still a stunning renewable energy success story.

Although progress has slowed from the frenetic pace of 2011-2013, Germany is very much a world leader in the transition to renewable energy.

Renewable energies were the number 1 source of power production for the first time ever. [In Germany]

Renewables gained slightly in 2014 and now comprise 27.3 percent of domestic power consumption.

They have now permanently displaced lignite [brown coal] as the top source of power in the electricity mix. — The Energiewende in the Power Sector : State of Affairs 2014 (downloadable PDF)

Here is a nice chart, courtesy of our friends at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.

How goes the Energiewende, Germany? Es geht gut! Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute.
How goes the Energiewende, Germany? Es geht gut! Image courtesy of the Fraunhofer Institute.

There is no doubt that the world will transition to renewable energy, and even major oil companies like Shell and BP are in agreement that by the year 2100, almost 95% of all energy demand will be met by renewable energy.

In one scenario, Shell says that by 2060 the largest energy provider will be solar power.

How quickly that energy transition will occur, is what the present conversation is all about

Increasingly, the conversation centres around matching renewable energy subsidies with the (4x higher) subsidies enjoyed by coal, nuclear, and oil & gas power generation.

So get ready to breathe fresh air, because change is coming!

Related Articles:

Thank you to our friends at IRENA and at Fraunhofer Institute for their valuable graphics!

U.S. Solar Energy Industry Reports Record-Setting 3Q 2013

by Silvio Marcacci.

Solar panels were installed on more American residential rooftops in the 3rd Quarter of 2013 than any other quarter in history, pushing US installed solar capacity over the 10-gigawatt (GW) milestone and potentially ahead of Germany for the first time.

New U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Installations
New U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Installations. Image courtesy of SEIA.

This sunny picture comes courtesy of the US Solar Market Insight (SMI) Q3 2013 report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and it shines a spotlight on the economic power of America’s clean energy transition.

Overall solar installations continued to improve quarter-over-quarter across the US, delivering the second-largest quarter of overall installations in the history of America’s solar market.

US Installs 930MW Solar Energy In 3Q, May Pass Germany In 2013

America’s solar industry installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) panels in Q3 2013, 20% higher than Q2 2013 and 35% higher than Q3 2013. This blistering pace vaults America over the 10GW capacity mark to reach 10,250MW overall installed capacity across 400,000 solar projects – enough to power more than 1.7 million average US homes and the emissions equivalent of removing 2.1 million cars from the road.

3Q’s results are remarkable, but the US solar market might just be warming up.  The SMI report predicts 1,780MW of PV solar and 800MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) will be installed in 4Q 2013, meaning America will install over 5GW of new solar energy capacity in 2013 – 27% more than 2012 and a new single-year record.

Even more remarkable, SMI’s forecast means the US could install more overall solar capacity in 2013 than Germany, the world’s undisputed solar market leader. Germany is expected to install 4.2GW new solar capacity this year – placing second to another country for the first time in 15 years.

“Without a doubt, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the US solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO.

Cumulative Solar Photovoltaic installations by Quarter, U.S.A. vs. Germany
Cumulative Solar Photovoltaic installations by Quarter, U.S.A. vs. Germany. Image courtesy of SEIA.

Residential, Utility Installations Lead The Way

Residential solar led the 3Q charge with the market sector’s best-ever quarter, installing 186MW, up 45% compared to 2012. SMI credits favorable net metering policies for improving the economics of solar PV, but warns declining PV module prices could strain manufacturers while benefiting consumers.

The average price of PV panels have fallen more than 60% since the beginning of 2011 and now stands at a national average of $3.00 per installed watt.

“As solar continues its march toward ubiquity, the market will require continued innovation, efficiency improvement and regulatory clarity,” said Shayle Kann, GTM vice president of research.

The utility solar market sector also posted a strong quarter, with 52 projects completed for 539MW and over half of Q3’s total installed capacity. Unfortunately, the rising tide didn’t raise the boats of every industry sector – the non-residential (commercial) market is expected to remain flat through 2013 but may resume growth in 2014. California continues to lead the US solar PV market with 455MW installed in Q3, while Arizona placed second with 169MW installed.

2013 Total Installed Solar Photovoltaics -- by U.S. state. Image courtesy of SEIA.
2013 Total Installed Solar Photovoltaics — by U.S. state. Image courtesy of SEIA.

Solar’s Economic Impacts Ripple Across America

But best of all, As we’ve seen time and time again, the transition to a clean energy future also helps create green jobs. America’s solar industry led the US in green job creation during the third quarter, according to a recent report from E2, and had overall ripple effects across the overall economy.

119,000 workers are now employed at 6,100 businesses in the US solar industry, a 13.2% increase over 2011’s employment totals. Solar projects were valued at $11.5 billion by the end of 2012, up from $8.6 billion in 2011, and just $5 billion in 2010. With exponential growth continuing, it’s not hard to expect another overall valuation jump in 2013.

“This unprecedented growth is helping to create thousands of American jobs, save money for US consumers, and reduce pollution nationwide,” said Resch.

“Frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential.”

2013 Q3 Solar Facts. Image courtesy of SEIA.
2013 Q3 Solar Facts. Image courtesy of SEIA.

This article, US Solar Energy Industry Shines In Record-Setting 3Q 2013, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

Climate Change, A $10 Trillion Opportunity… Here And Now

 by Guest Contributor

creating climate wealth jigar shah
Mr. Jigar Shah’s just-released book, Creating Climate Wealth.

By Douglas Elbinger, Energy Policy Analyst, GreenLancer.com

Many of us who have been on the ground floor of the renewable energy business are secretly experiencing the warm fuzzy feelings that precede explosive global growth. Economic opportunity of this scale happens very rarely. Recent history tells us that nothing changes on this scale ‘peacefully’ until the economics are in alignment with necessity and invention. This is a true test of a new energy reality, where climate change hits head on with abundant and cheap renewable energy. This collision translates into a $10 trillion industry that will transform the current geo-political narrative (energy, water, climate, etc.…) as we know it, and offer unprecedented opportunity for those who are on board when this train leaves the station. So, how, you ask, is this going happen… and how can I get on the train?

First, allow me introduce you to Mr. Jigar Shah, who will guide you on the path in his just released book, Creating Climate Wealth. He offers his reader a clear, engaging, easy-to-understand conversation about seizing this moment to make climate change a huge business opportunity — whether you work at the top or in the trenches — anywhere on the planet.

In this fast-paced, straight forward read, he describes in detail the opportunity in front of all of us: how to turn the biggest challenge of our lifetime — climate change — into a $10 trillion dollar new economy. He actually presents a “New Economy Plan” that identifies 100,000 businesses each selling $100 million in climate change solutions by 2020 — $10 trillion in total!

If you don’t know Jigar, I recommend you get to know a little about him. He revolutionized the solar industry by deploying the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) solar-as-service business model. This business model used 30-year old solar technology to be the catalyst for a multi-billion dollar solar industry. Even if you are skeptical of the $10 trillion opportunity Jigar portrays, it’s worth reading to understand the power of innovative business models. Jigar’s crucial message is that we need business model innovation, not just technology innovation, in order to unlock the deployment of clean technologies around the world. Shah makes a compelling case for reaching our 2020 climate change goals through 100,000 companies worldwide, each generating $100 million in sales.

I recommend you buy the hard copy so you can share it with friends and family. You can do this via Amazon here.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Climate Change, A $10 Trillion Opportunity… Here And Now, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Guest Contributor is many, many people all at once. In other words, we publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. 😀

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Wicked Green: Massachusetts Clean Economy Grows 11.8% To 80,000 Jobs

by Silvio Marcacci – Special to JBS News
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With the way Massachusetts’ clean energy economy is growing these days, state residents may need to start celebrating a different kind of green than Boston Celtics jerseys.

The Bay State’s clean energy industry kept booming this year, increasing green jobs by 11.8% from 2012 to 2013, according to the 2013 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report.

Green growth has been fast, strong, and diverse across the state, benefitting from smart government policy and a combination of access to finance and cutting-edge research. Add it all up, and you get an economic success story with a sustainable twist.

2013 Massachusetts green economy
2013 Massachusetts green economy image via MassCEC

24% Green Job Growth In Two Years

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report is compiled by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), and 2013 is the third year it’s been published. The report tracks the size and growth of green jobs and businesses across the state through direct business surveys and interviews, and defines a clean energy firm or clean energy worker as one engaged in whole or part with clean energy technology.

And make no mistake – Massachusetts’ green economy is growing fast. Since the first report, the state’s clean energy economy has grown 24% and added 15,500 jobs. That’s more than eight times faster than an overall 3% economic growth rate for all industries state-wide.

Massachusetts green job growth
Massachusetts green job growth chart via MassCEC

Massachusetts now boasts 79,994 green jobs across 5,557 businesses – 1.9% of all jobs state-wide, spread across every corner of the state and nearly every aspect of the clean energy economy. More than half of these firms are small businesses, meaning five or fewer full-time employees, but the majority of job creation came from new businesses and startups.

But even more promising, 27% of employers say they have current openings they expect to fill in the next three months. 83% of green jobs added since 2012 were new positions, and MassCEC forecasts the state will add 8,800 new green jobs over the next year for an 11.1% growth rate and total of 88,874 green jobs state-wide.

“We pursue our clean energy agenda because we cannot leave our future to chance,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Our clean energy industry is putting thousands of our residents to work in every corner of the Commonwealth, catalyzing economic growth and creating a healthier Massachusetts.”

A Diverse Green Economy Grows Across Massachusetts

Indeed, while green growth has happened quickly, it’s also developed across a diverse economic pattern meaning the state isn’t reliant on one single industry and is more likely to weather short-term market swings.

Massachusetts green economy
Massachusetts green economy chart via MassCEC

Energy efficiency remained Massachusetts’ top clean energy employer, with 46,613 total jobs across 3,002 firms and a 15.9% growth rate. No shocker here, considering the state routinely places first in national energy efficiency rankings, and a big reason why it saw 157% growth in electric energy savings between 2007-2013.

Renewable energy came in a close second to efficiency, employing 30,537 workers at 2,312 companies with a 2.6% growth rate. This area of the clean energy economy definitely cooled off compared to 2011-2012, when it grew 26%, and is surprising considering installed solar capacity grew from 16 megawatts (MW) in 2009 to over 250MW in 2012, and now represents 8,400 workers for 59.7% of all renewable energy jobs.

But the rising star of MassCEC’s 2013 report may be carbon management. This sector ranked third overall with 11,807 green jobs across 489 firms, but grew 19.7% between 2012-2013, bolstered by millions in auction revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This year’s growth is also a big rebound from 2011-2012, when the sector actually shrunk 14%.

This article, Wicked Green: Massachusetts Clean Economy Grows 11.8% To 80,000 Jobs, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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