Our guest bloggers are the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Richard Caperton, Policy Analyst, and Rebecca Lefton, Researcher with Progressive Media.
Congress may be stalling on clean energy and climate reform, but states are not waiting for the federal government to capture the economic and job benefits of the clean energy economy. Government leaders are racing ahead at the state level with clean-energy and climate policies to lessen dependence on dirty fossil fuels, provide safe and reliable sources of energy, and –especially vital in today’s economy—create jobs. Already, 35 states and Washington, DC, have renewable energy standard policies in place, which set targets for how much of a utility’s electricity sales must come from renewable power sources. Thirty of these standards are mandatory, while the remaining six are less-stringent goals. Our analysis of the current renewable energy programs underway across states finds that meeting these targets will create more than 2 million jobs.
But the upcoming elections may slam the brakes on these new clean energy jobs. As Brad Johnson has reported, there are key gubernatorial, Senate, and House races in which conservative candidates have challenged renewable energy standards or deny the reality of global warming. The potential to create jobs through existing RES policies is most immediately at risk in three tight governors’ races: Maryland, Ohio, and Illinois. In those states, Republican candidates have made it clear they don’t support such policies. In three more states, Kansas, Minnesota and Oklahoma, candidates professing themselves to be highly skeptical of the existence of global warming – and the corresponding need to pass policies to move to a lower-carbon future — may come out ahead in November. In each of these states, ending the RES would prevent the state from creating thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs and hundreds of permanent operations and maintenance jobs. In the six states with the most at-risk renewable energy standards, more than 445,000 construction-phase jobs (full-time equivalent, for one year) are at stake, as are more than 6,000 permanent jobs. The results for the six states we’ve identified are below:
In Ohio, for example, candidate John Kasich (R) has promised to overturn the state’s 2008 renewable energy law requiring 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025. Governor Ted Strickland, in contrast, recognizes the benefits of building a clean energy economy and is proposing to ramp up clean energy policies to help renewable industries to revitalize manufacturing as a driver of economic growth and jobs. “As Ohio residents and businesses are fighting hard to recover from the crippling Wall Street recession, we must give promising companies every reason to develop and invest in Ohio as quickly as possible,” said Strickland.
We recognize that investment in non-renewable energy, such as coal, can create jobs, too. To some extent jobs created by investing in clean energy will be offset by jobs forgone by not building coal or other energy infrastructure. We don’t consider these offsetting jobs here for two reasons. First, there is strong evidence that meeting new energy needs from clean energy will create more jobs because clean energy is more labor intensive. For example, wind and solar photovoltaic industries provide at least 40 percent more jobs per dollar than coal. And, research from physicist Dan Kammen shows that renewable energy has many more jobs per megawatt-hour than traditional energy sources. Second, by developing clean energy technologies, states will encourage innovation and new economic opportunities, a virtue unto itself. While meeting increased electricity demand through fossil fuel use would obviously create jobs, these jobs would not be accompanied by the benefits from investing in new technologies.
We need leaders who will tackle the global warming threat and record unemployment with smart policies that have tangible benefits for Americans. Government officials in key states have achieved strong standards that will create thousands of renewable energy jobs.
The following chart shows twelve states that are leading the charge with standards that will create more than 1.8 million renewable energy jobs:
Colorado, for example, stands to gain 15,546 wind-related jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries. After the turbines are installed, operating and maintaining these facilities will create another 604 jobs. In solar, Colorado’s RES will create 18,330 jobs in solar installation, construction, and manufacturing, plus another 122 permanent jobs. Colorado passed its first RES in 2004. The 10 percent RES was achieved in such a short period of time that in 2007, the state doubled it to 20 percent. This year, the legislature approved increasing it to 30 percent. (Because of some exemptions and a lower standard for small utilities, the RES is effectively 22 percent.)
These 12 states have the potential to create more than 1.8 million construction-phase jobs (which includes manufacturing and production, including of new renewable energy technologies), and 13,300 permanent jobs in the wind and solar industries. Some of these states will also get significant additional job growth from investments in geothermal and biomass energy. When all 35 states with renewable standards are considered, our analysis finds that the standards will create more than two million construction-phase jobs across the nation — unless they are killed by conservative ideologues.
This analysis is based on a two step process involving publicly available data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, American Council on Renewable Energy, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. For the first step, we calculated the amount of renewable capacity that would not get built if a state RES was canceled today. We assume that electricity demand grows at the same rate in every state, and that the proportion of renewable energy that comes from wind and solar remains constant, which allows us to project the amount of wind and solar that would ultimately be needed to meet the RES in each state. We then subtracted the capacity that currently exists or is under construction, resulting in the amount of capacity that will ultimately not be built if the RES is cancelled.
For the second step, we used NREL’s Jobs and Economic Development Impact models to estimate the number of jobs that are represented by the renewables capacity that won’t be built if a state RES is cancelled. This model tells us how many jobs would be created (both in the construction phase and the permanent phase) by wind and solar projects in each state. We used this model to find a total job number and then adjusted the number of jobs to account for increased labor productivity. To do this, we spread the jobs equally over the lifetime of the RES (i.e., if the RES has a target date of 2020, then we assumed that 1/10th of the total jobs would be created in each year from 2011 to 2020) and discounted the number of jobs to account for a 2.6 percent increase in labor productivity each year.
These job numbers are not “net” jobs, in the sense that some of the jobs would very likely be created in fossil fuel energy businesses without the RES. These numbers represent new jobs of certain types in certain industries, not total new jobs in a state. However, meeting the same new energy requirements through fossil fuel generation would likely not create as many jobs, as described above.
Finally, it’s worth noting that RES’s are complicated policies involving renewable energy credit trading, alternative compliance payments, exemptions, multipliers for certain technologies, and other elements that make it impossible to predict exactly how much new generation will be built in a state. We have tried to account for these factors (for example, when a state has a different RES goal for investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives, we calculated an “effective” goal based on the total sales of each type of utility), but have made a general assumption that the RES will be met by in-state generation. More information is available at http://www.dsireusa.org