New Study Shows Tremendous Job Growth under National RES

Last week, the RES-Alliance for Jobs released the “Jobs Impact of a National Renewable Electricity Standard” study conducted by Navigant Consulting, Inc.

A renewable electricity standard—sometimes called a renewable portfolio standard—is a policy that requires electric service providers to increase the amount of renewable energy resources—such as wind, solar, bioenergy, and geothermal—that supplies their electricity, until they reach a specified target by a specified date.

The study assess the employment impacts of renewable electricity standards previously proposed in Congress, including near-term targets of 12% by 2014 and 20% by 2020, as well as the longer term target of 25% by 2025.

The study found that “the renewable energy industry would support 274,000 more jobs with a 25% by 2025 national RES than it would without a national RES. This additional employment is equivalent to 2.36 million additional jobyears by 2025.” Specifically, these jobs would be created in every region of the US, with the Southeastern US gaining in the biomass sector and the Great Plains and Midwest benefitting from expanding wind resources.

52% of the jobs created by 2025 would be manufacturing-oriented, 23% construction and craft trades, and 11% engineering and professional technical services jobs. These manufacturing jobs, the study says, are particularly well suited to be created in areas with an existing, if dormant, manufacturing base—such as Kentucky, Tennessee, and other Southeastern states.

The study also evaluated the job impacts of not having a national RES, finding that many states would shed jobs in the manufacturing and renewable energy sectors without a policy in place to drive markets. Navigant attributes this to the fact that manufacturers will seek out proximity to long-term markets; states that do not currently have renewable energy targets in place are not likely to create such long-term markets and therefore could lose jobs in what constitutes an emerging renewable energy sector currently.

Some of the biggest hurdles facing renewable energy companies right now include the inconsistency in markets and incentives. Navigant found that “On-again, off-again short-term tax credits do not guarantee a long-term market for renewable electricity.” The current Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), and other such credits, falls into the category of on-again off-again as they must be renewed annually—or for a few years at a time—by Congress. This does not provide the stability companies need to make the kinds of investments in manufacturing facilities that will drive long-term job growth.

A strong national RES, however, would guarantee a long-term market for renewable energy and thus “is more likely to support more American manufacturing jobs than several short-term tax credit extensions would because companies will locate manufacturing facilities in regions with long-term demand.”

As both Virginia and Kentucky state legislators consider statewide renewable energy legislation during the current sessions, the need for strong policy leadership—at both the national and state levels—to capture these potential job opportunities is made increasingly clear. Updates on these efforts are available from the Virginia Conservation Network and the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.