Renewable energy projects are creating ten times more jobs than similar-sized fossil fuel projects, according to a new study from the UK Energy Research Centre.
The report used data from 50 different studies published since 2000 on the relationship between green energy investment and job creation in the USA, Europe and China.
Experts found that, on average, electricity from fossil fuels creates 0.1-0.2 gross jobs per gigawatt-hour generated. In comparison, electricity from wind creates 0.05-0.5 gross jobs per giga-watt hour generated,, and solar creates 0.4-1.1 gross jobs per gigawatt-hour generated.
Energy efficiency projects also create more jobs than dirty energy, coming in at 0.3-1.0 jobs per giga-watt hour saved.
Of course, many could argue that by creating jobs in one energy sector, you could be displacing them from elsewhere. But factoring this into calculation the UKERC was also able to work out the overall ‘net’ picture.
And the picture remains positive, showing an average 0.5 jobs were created per GWh of renewables compared to 0.25 jobs per GWh for fossil fuels.
For every £1 million invested in green energy, around 10 jobs are created, say the researchers.
The report also showed that when the economy is under-performing, for example during a period of recession, it is sensible to focus government expenditure on these labour-intensive sectors. Renewable energy is preferable as it is much more labour intensive than the fossil fuel industry, which relies on mechanised and capital intensive technologies.
Dr Will Blyth, of Oxford Energy Associates, said:
Government-led investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency can offer short-term benefits, helping the economy to grow in times of recession by promoting employment.
When the economy is starting to recover – such as now – the key challenge for government policy is to encourage an economically efficient transition towards the country’s strategic goals – such as tackling climate change. Here there is a strong case for investment in renewable technologies and efficiency measures as part of the transformational change to a low carbon energy system.
Job prospects in the industry certainly appear promising. The US Department’s Bureau of Labour statistics project employment growth in the wind industry alone to grow by 24% over the next ten years– over double the average growth rate.
Indeed, an entire graduating class of wind-technicians were offered jobs on the same day, highlighting the demand for workers in this industry, and the speed at which it is expanding. Pay in the sector is also competitive; entry level technicians can earn as much as $17 per hour.
Moreover, the availability of jobs in the renewables sector will have a ripple effect, as businesses unrelated to the energy industry will profit from increased household and business incomes in the plant’s area.
The study comes just weeks after the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change dismissed solar farms as ‘unwelcome’, instead choosing to push ahead with plans to boost North Sea oil production.
Yet domestic renewable energy production reduces the need for money to be spent importing coal, freeing up more money for public services.
The latest study adds to the host of research showing that not only is the renewable energy transition vital and inevitable, but that it will bring multiple benefits to society.
A shift towards renewable energy has significant public health benefits, for example, with pollution caused by coal and natural gas generation has been linked to cancer, breathing problems, neurological damage and heart attacks.
Replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy has been found to improve public health, thus reducing the number of lost workdays, as well as the risk of premature mortality.