Monday, April 18, 2011

How Many Jobs Are Created by Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy?

"[...] if you've ever seen the look on someone's face the day they get a job, [...] they look like they could fly. And unless we start tapping into that kind of spirit again, there's no way we're gonna fix anything in this country." -- Dave Kovic (impersonating U.S. President Mitchell in the 1993 movie Dave)

You don't have to cite the IPCC's fourth assessment report if you want to persuade people to adopt renewable energy technologies or buy energy efficient appliances, cars, and buildings. If they know they will have more jobs in the sustainable energy future, they will listen to clean (green) energy advocates.

Above all, what are green jobs? The UNEP defines green jobs as "work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R&D), administrative, and service activities that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality." (Worldwatch Institute, 2008) If you want to know specific names of green jobs, there are extensive lists of green increased demand occupations, green enhanced skills occupations, green new and emerging occupations according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA), which are online at the O*NET Resource Center (2009).

Perhaps the most influential paper on this topic after the UNEP's 2008 green jobs report mentioned above is Wei, et al.'s Energy Policy article (2010). While the UNEP study or the WWF's similar study for Europe (Ghani-Eneland, et al., 2009) calculated specific number of jobs that are created or could be created by green economics, Wei, et al. brilliantly extracted an average number of jobs per unit energy output by technology.
Their meta-analysis is quoted in a summary table as this:

Energy technologyCapacity factorEquipment lifetime (years)Average employment over life of facility (total job-years per GWh)
Landfill Gas85%400.72
Small Hydro55%400.27
Solar PV20%250.87
Solar Thermal40%250.23
Carbon Capture & Storage80%400.18
Natural Gas80%400.11
Energy Efficiency100%200.38
Although some technologies' capacity factors or lifetimes are arguable, it shows strong potential for large job creation from most renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Conventional technologies like fossil fuel, nuclear, and wind technologies had relatively lower employment multiplier effect.

The Center for American Progress (Pollin, et al., 2009) has a different calculation. They calculated numbers of new jobs per unit monetary output. (Wei, et al. compared total numbers of jobs between technologies.)
Energy sourceDirect new jobs per $1 million in outputIndirect new jobs per $1 million in outputTotal job creation per $1 million in output
Fossil fuelsOil and natural gas0.82.93.7
Energy efficiencyBuilding retrofits7.04.911.9
Mass Transit / Freight Rail (90% MT, 10% FR)11.04.915.9
Smart grid4.34.68.9
In this study, the energy efficiency sector's employment potential is higher than the previous table. Renewable energy sources' job creation power is stronger than that of fossil fuels.

There have been doubts to clean energy industry's employment potential. For example, Lesser (2010) asserted that higher electricity price due to higher penetration rates of costly (or subsidized) renewable electricity will actually decrease overall employment. Mostafaeipour (2010) pointed out that renewable industry's (in this article, wind power) workforce is predominantly male.
Lesser's assertions can be deputed by recent studies promising renewable energy's grid-parity even without subsidies, one of which I introduced in my previous post (
Although gender injustice against women in employment doesn't seem the renewable energy sector's exclusive issue, it is an important issue I'll look into later.

However, for now, I can say there're empirical evidence for better employment opportunities in the sustainable energy future.


Ghani-Eneland, M., Renner, M., & Chawla, A. (2009). Low Carbon Jobs for Europe: Current Opportunities and Future Prospects. Gland, Switzerland: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). [Full-text at]

Lesser, J. A. (2010). Renewable Energy and the Fallacy of 'Green' Jobs. The Electricity Journal, 23(7), 45-53. [Full-text at]

Martinez-Fernandez, C., Hinojosa, C., & Miranda, G. (2010). Greening Jobs and Skills: Labour Market Implications of Addressing Climate Change. OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, (2010/2). [Full-text at]

Mostafaeipour, A. (2010). Productivity and development issues of global wind turbine industry. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 14(3), 1048-1058. [Full-text at]

O*NET Resource Center. (2009). The Green Economy, from

Pollin, R., Heintz, J., & Garrett-Peltier, H. (2009). The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy: How the economic stimulus program and new legislation can boost U.S. economic growth and employment. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. [Full-text at]

Wei, M., Patadia, S., & Kammen, D. M. (2010). Putting renewables and energy efficiency to work: How many jobs can the clean energy industry generate in the US? Energy Policy, 38(2), 919-931. [Full-text at]

Worldwatch Institute. (2008). Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). [Full-text at]

1 comment:

  1. In Good sunshine areas we can expect higher Opacity factor for Solar. This further increases when sun tracking is used. Please include these new figures in the table please.