Apr 04, 2012 at 11:14 pm
OK, this is a little bit silly. Clearly, whoever wrote this little gotcha piece on something I said today about employment in clean energy isn’t spending enough time up here at OTE, where a couple of weeks ago, I posted this, based on new numbers from a BLS study:
…the number of jobs producing clean energy in the utility sector is small:
Within this industry, electricity generated from wind had the highest employment with 2,200 jobs, followed by biomass with 1,100 jobs, geothermal with 600 jobs, and solar with 400 jobs.
But keep in mind that there are lots more jobs in say, wind and solar, but they’re in other industries, such as manufacturers making solar panels and wind turbines. The small numbers in the utilities partially reflect the fact that here in the US we still get only 8% of our energy from renewables (see chart) and well under 1% from wind or solar (also, it’s my impression that this is a high-productivity endeavor; it just doesn’t take that many people to staff a wind or solar farm).
In other words, the headline to the piece is misleading—it’s not true that “clean energy brings little employment” nor is that what I said. My point was that the production of clean energy can be capital, as opposed to labor intensive—(in fact, I said “it doesn’t take a ton of people to run these plants”). But upstream industries, as noted in both the earlier blog post and the quote itself, which cited construction of clean energy plants, can employ a lot more people (i.e., they’re more labor intensive).
And btw, regardless of labor or capital intensivity, we should be investing and producing a lot more renewable energy, and not just the energy itself, but the machines, batteries, solar panels, wind turbines that generate it and the smart grid to distribute it. Yes there are jobs there, but even were that not the case, it’s essential to our energy future, security, and sustainability.
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