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!

Climate Change, The Biggest Story of Our Time [2 Videos]

by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Climate Change

James Cameron says it is “the biggest story of our time” in a fresh nine-part documentary series airing on SHOWTIME that looks at our Earth, its climate and the effects of changing climate on people and local economies. Actors, economists, and political leaders set out as reporters traveling the globe in search of the effects of climate change.

Their “findings” and statements will astonish you. You may wish to keep a pen and paper handy, as there are some amazing quotes embedded in the hour-long documentary. Feel free to Tweet such quotes, or post on Facebook, and include the URL of this page.

For example, did you know that Indonesia’s forest clear-cutting causes 4% of worldwide annual carbon emissions? That’s approximately equal to all of Canada’s CO2 emissions and South Africa’s CO2 emissions, combined.

Some pretty big names are involved in this.

First, the executive producers. There are a lot of them:

James Cameron, Canadian film director, deep-sea explorer, screenwriter, editor, multi-Oscar winner, and one of the most popular film producers in Hollywood, who directed the two biggest box office films of all time: Titanic and Avatar.

Jerry Weintraub, film producer, entertainment mogul, former chairman and CEO of United Artists, and cofounder of 60s vocal group The Doodletown Pipers (once beloved to this writer).

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Teutonic movie hunk, former husband of a Kennedy, California’s 38th governor, founder of the nonprofit R20: Regions of Climate Action, and recent star of Escape Plan and Sabotage.

Daniel Abbasi, leader on climate change issues, founder of GameChange Capital, author, appointee at the EPA (worked with White House in mid-1990s on first U.S. National Action Plan on Climate Change), former strategist for subsidiaries of Washington Post and Time Warner, and former Associate Dean at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Joel Bach, story producer at 60 Minutes for seven years, multi-Emmy awardwinner, colleague of Ed Bradley, Scott Pelley, Steve Kroft, and Lesley Stahl, veteran of ABC and NBC, and freelance producer/director of music videos, commercials, short films, and PSAs in California.

David Gelber, Ed Bradley’s producer at 60 Minutes for 25 years, winner of every major journalism award, including a Peabody, two DuPont Awards, and eight Emmy Awards, former executive producer of Peter Jennings Reporting at ABC News, winner of Best Investigative Story of 2010 Emmy with Scott Pelley on medical charlatans who peddle bogus stem cell therapy to patients dying of ALS.

Solly Granatstein, television producer formerly with 60 Minutes, NBC News, and ABC News, multiple award-winner, recent producer of “Inside Mexico’s Drug War,” “Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster,” and “Lost Children of Haiti.”

Maria Wilhelm, Executive Director of the Avatar Alliance Foundation, President & COO of CAMERON Companies, social advocate with a focus on climate change, with commercial initiatives in new technology integration and interests in China and elsewhere.

Second (although they often vie for first place), the stars of the show. Here are a few of these luminaries, all of whom showed up at the premiere:

Harrison Ford, Oscar-winning actor, environmentalist (Conservation International Board member from 1991, later Vice Chairman and Executive Committee; also involved with the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and others), Han Solo in the first “Star Wars” trilogy, Indiana Jones in four mega-hits starting with “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” recently in “42″ and “Ender’s Game.”

Ian Somerhalder, actor (Boone Carlyle in “Lost,” Damon Salvatore in “The Vampire Diaries”), model from age 10-13, environmentalist (Ian Somerhalder Foundation, personal involvement in the cleanup after the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster), conservationist, supporter of the It Gets Better Project (GLBT teen suicide), and Millenial heart-throb.

Don Cheadle, actor (Boogie Nights, Ocean’s 11, 12, 13, Hotel Rwanda, Marty Kaan on “House of Lies”), producer, Golden Globe Award winner, co-founder ofNot on Our Watch Project, U.N. Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador.

Also featured:

Mark Bittman, Christopher Hayes, Lesley Stahl, Sanjayan Muttulingam, Thomas Friedman, Olivia Munn, America Ferrera, Matt Damon, Michael C. Hall, and Jessica Alba.

by Sandy Dechert of Cleantechnica.com

See the first instalment of the nine-part documentary, below.

Subscribe to the Years of Living Dangerously channel for more.

Check out the official site for the nine-part video production here.

Click here for a summary of all episodes of the program.

Subscribe to SHOWTIME on cable TV. Order now for $25 off.

Watch on SHOWTIME free with your paid subscription.

Yale climate project. Climate Change is happening. 350.org
Yale climate project. Climate Change is happening. 350.org

Illinois, America’s Green Building LEED-Certified Leader

by Silvio Marcacci.

America’s got a new number one when it comes to green building among the top states for LEED-certified construction, and this year’s winner may surprise you.

Illinois jumped from fifth to first in this year’s Top 10 States for LEED ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), supplanting perennial winner Washington, D.C.

The list is based on a per-capita basis of 2010 U.S. Census data combined with commercial and institutional green building projects certified through the LEED certification program across 2013 – a whopping 1,777 projects and 22.8 million square feet across the top ten states.

Renewable Energy. USGBC Top 10 States for LEED chart via US Green Building Council.
Renewable Energy. USGBC Top 10 States for LEED chart via US Green Building Council

Illinois Places First, With An Asterisk

Illinois ranked fifth in 2013 and placed third in 2012, so while its ascension isn’t shocking and shows a steady increase in green building projects, this year’s top rank is largely due to a technical change in how USGBC ranks states – namely dropping Washington, D.C. from the top 10 list.

171 LEED projects encompassing 29,415,284 square feet of space were certified in Illinois during 2013, good for 2.29 square feet of per-capita LEED-certified space. Those totals were good enough to beat out all other states, but would have been swamped by D.C.’s 32.45 per-capita square footage if it had been included.

“The public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment,” said Governor Pat Quinn. “Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader, and we are proof that smaller environmental footprint can help us step toward energy independence.”

Metro DC, New York, and California Round Out The Ranks

While Illinois may sit atop the ranks in 2013 due to D.C.’s exclusion, the nation’s capital (and federal government’s green building efforts) had a spillover effect on neighboring states, boosting Maryland and Virginia into the top three, with 119 and 160 projects representing 12,696,429 and 16,868,693 square feet for 2.20 and 2.11 per-capita square feet, all respectively.

The nation’s overall leaders in certified square footage and total certified projects, New York and California, tied for fifth in the LEED rankings due to their large populations driving down per-capita square footage.

Renewable Energy. Green building image via CleanTechnica
Renewable Energy. Green building image via CleanTechnica

This twist is due to USGBC calculating the list using per-capita figures to create a fair comparison of green building activity taking place among states with significant differences in population and overall buildings.

Interestingly, USGBC notes the continued trend toward LEED certifications of existing buildings through retrofit projects. 48 percent of all square footage in 2013 was certified under LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance, while 43 percent was certified under LEED for Building Design and Construction.

Every Green Building Boosts the Economy

Regardless of if green building projects are happening on new or existing buildings, they’re having a big economic impact. 35 percent of all US construction jobs today are in green building, according to a 2013 estimate, and industry revenue could top $248 billion by 2016.

“As the economy recovers, green buildings continue to provide jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of USGBC.

Beyond creating green jobs, green buildings are also saving businesses money while making their assets more valuable. A recent analysis showed 58 percent of corporate America had green buildings in their business portfolios with 30 percent building green to lower operating costs.  Additionally, McGraw Hill research has shown building values jump up to 11 percent with an up-to 14 percent return on investment for green building projects.

That’s all great news, but the best may still be yet to come. USGBC notes 37,000 projects representing 7.6 billion square feet of space are in the certification pipeline worldwide, and LEED v4 has raised the bar with increased requirements for certification, meaning our buildings will continue to get greener and greener – just like our economy.

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This article, Illinois Jumps To Top Of US Green Building LEED-Certified Ranks, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

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

US Deficit Could Be Cut By $1 Trillion Using Carbon Tax

by Guest Contributor, Jeff Spross.

carbon pollution
Image Credit: carbon pollution via Shutterstock.

Originally published on Think Progress.

A carbon tax of $25 per ton of emissions would cut the deficit by $1 trillion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The finding was part of a report CBO just put out detailing 103 different ways — in terms of both cutting spending and raising revenue — the U.S. government could reduce its deficit. At a total haul of $1.06 trillion by 2021, the carbon tax was far and away the biggest deficit reducer of any option listed.

It’s a policy that enjoys widespread support amongst politicians, industry spokespersons, economists, and polling of the general public. But it’s also on the legislative back-burner — save for efforts by Rep. Henry Waxman (R-CA) and a handful of other concerned legislators — while the Obama Administration attempts to cut carbon emissions through the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.

But a carbon tax would be conceptually simpler, would leave businesses free to figure out how they want to reduce their emissions, and would incentivize them to find the most cost-effective way to get those cuts. The regulatory route doesn’t provide that same flexibility, though it comes with greater certainty (as does a cap-and-trade system) in how much carbon emissions will go down. With the tax, government sets the price and then finds out how much emissions drop.

Specifically, CBO modeled a tax of $25 for every ton of carbon put out by most sectors of the economy, including electricity generation, manufacturing, and transportation. The tax would increase at a rate of two percent every year, adjusted for inflation. As a result, CBO projected carbon emissions would fall ten percent from their current level.

There would some negative consequences. Increased fossil fuel costs would push down economic growth and reduce revenues from income and payroll taxes — though CBO accounted for those other losses in its estimate. The tax would also fall heavier on low-income households, because energy use is a larger portion of their overall budgets. But if lawmakers are willing to forego the deficit reduction, CBO has also proposed options for plowing the tax’s revenue back into the economy in a way that could eliminate those impacts.

On the plus side, cracking down on carbon emissions naturally reduces other pollutants that directly harm human health. CBO cited a study that found a tax of $29 per ton would deliver a $10 to $20 boost to the economy for every ton of emissions cut, just from improved health. This same effect is largely why the estimated economic benefits of environmental regulations routinely dwarf their costs to businesses.

Now, a ten percent reduction in emissions isn’t all that impressive given the scale of the greenhouse gas problem. But the CBO also set the tax at $25 merely for illustrative purposes. A separate analysis by the executive branch already pegged the damage carbon emissions will do to the economy at $32 to $37 per ton. Other studies say the price should be $55, $83, or even $266 per ton.

Ultimately, the first and most important justification for the tax is heading off the potentially catastrophic effects of man-made climate change. Deficit reduction is a laudable goal, but hardly one the country should be pursuing while it’s still in the economic doldrums.

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This article, US Deficit Could Be Cut By $1 Trillion Using Carbon Tax, 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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Deutsche Says Solar PV Market Could Reach 50 GW In 2014

by Giles Parkinson

Germany solar power
Germany solar power

Originally published on RenewEconomy

The upgrades to the outlook for the solar PV market continue, with analysts at Deutsche Bank now suggesting that some module manufacturers expect the global market to rise as high as 50GW in 2014.

It says solar companies are bullish on the fundamentals of the market and demand from Japan, China and the US. The market could rise to 45-50GW in 2014, which would be nearly 50 per cent more than the anticipated 35GW of installations in the current year.

It says most companies now expect at least 45GW next year – compared to recent industry estimates of around 40GW – and some companies such as Yingli – the world’s biggest manufacturer – suggest it could be as high as 50GW.

China appears to be the big source of demand upside – and could install up to 15GW in 2014. This is after major revisions to the current year’s target to as high as 9GW from prior estimates of 5-6GW, mostly the result of a big boost to the distributed market in that country.

This will be supported by strong demand from Japan, the US and other emerging market.

Deutsche Bank said this was good news for solar stocks, given that increased demand will bring improvements in pricing, margins and therefore revenue and profit improvements. “We expect the current solar rally to continue through the year-end. Trina, Yingli are its top picks in the China solar sector.

Adding to the improved outlook for solar companies was a further shake-out in tier 2 and tier 3 Chinese module manufacturers, most of whom were struggling to access finance and could face problems meeting debt payments.

“Most solar companies plan to add module capacity by spending limited amount on CAPEX or in some cases acquire equipment of bankrupt companies at a discount to market price. In any case, capacity growth from tier 1 companies would be likely constrained by availability of poly, wafers and cells.

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This article, Deutsche Says Solar PV Market Could Reach 50 GW In 2014, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Giles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.