ENERGY: Survey finds U.S. energy standard would create hundreds of thousands of jobs (02/05/2010)

This is an interesting report, timely also.
 Saqib Rahim, E&E reporter

An aggressive renewable energy standard (RES) would create more than a quarter-million jobs by 2025, according to a new study sponsored by renewable power companies and advocacy groups.

The report found significant job growth in the southeastern United States: All the states, except South Carolina and Mississippi, would gain at least 5,000 jobs versus the no-RES case. The larger states, Florida and Texas, would net at least 15,000.

The report projected how many jobs would be created if a national RES required 25 percent of electricity sales to come from renewable energy by 2025. It was authored by Navigant Consulting for the RES-Alliance for Jobs, a group including General Electric Co., Applied Materials Inc., and BP Wind as well as the major trade associations in the renewables sector.

Renewable energy has met with opposition in the South because coal infrastructure is so entrenched. Others have claimed the South lacks the resources of the sun-doused Southwest and gusty Midwest.

The RES Alliance report found relatively small job gains in Southern wind and solar, but biomass, hydropower and energy recovery from waste grew much more, with biomass employment projected to double by 2025.

Without a national RES, the study found, the renewable energy industry would plateau or even shrink in most states. This is because the lack of a long-term goal would discourage suppliers from beefing up the supply chain for renewables, it said.

Half would come from manufacturing

The report also said half of these jobs would come from manufacturing — not just direct fabrication of solar panels, heat pumps and the like, but also the materials needed to build the equipment.

The 25 percent target marks the high end of legislation proposed on Capitol Hill; Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) proposed a 15 percent mandate for renewables last year.

If momentum for a cap-and-trade bill grinds to a halt, such a proposal could become a cornerstone of energy legislation in the near term.

A similar study last year by the Union of Concerned Scientists also modeled a 25 percent mandate by 2025, finding it would create roughly 300,000 jobs. The employment boost would span the construction, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry sectors, as well as the jobs needed to maintain the new equipment.

The UCS report said renewable energy creates more jobs than the fossil fuel industries because manufacturing, installation and maintenance are more labor-intensive than the processes in the fossil fuel chain.

Others, such as the Institute for Energy Research, have contended that renewable energy is a wasteful way to spur employment because it needs constant subsidy.


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