In a time in sustained high unemployment rates, and the necessity of affordable and attainable energy, job creation has become a hot topic. Often, job creation is a clever justification for public sector investments in various programs, policies, institutions, or projects. In this article we look into the estimated net job impacts of various energy sectors and how the world is clearly shifting toward renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Currently, the declining costs of renewable energy and energy efficiency techniques is helping to drive the shift from fossil fuels, more specifically coal, to renewable energy and energy efficiency. According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States saw an increase of 9 percent in renewable energy while coal dropped by 18 percent between 2015 and 2016.
The staggering shift has affected jobs in a very similar fashion. For example, solar employment saw an increase in almost 6 percent while oil, gas, and respective support services saw an eighteen percent drop.
There will be billions of dollars of investment pumped into energy, and one of the major factors of deciding on form of energy over another is the job creation. Energy related jobs is a slippery subject as there are various different aspects which must be taken into account. For example, are jobs permanent, do estimates count direct jobs, or also include indirectly induced or spin off jobs.
According to the American Progress reports, Clean Energy investments create an average of 16.37 jobs for every USD 1 million spending as compared to 5.3 jobs created by spending USD 1 million on fossil fuels. Relatively, clean energy investment creates almost 2.6 times more jobs for college degree holders, 3 times more jobs for people with some college, and an enormous 3.6 times more jobs for people with a high school degree or less.
The values are quite comparable to the studies done by the World Bank which show Oil and Gas produce about 5.2 jobs for every invested million, while coal produces about 6.9 jobs. Wind and solar provide 13.5 jobs for every invested USD 1 million, which is almost three times that of Oil and Gas, and twice that of coal. Building retrofitting for increased efficiencies provide 16.7 jobs on average for every USD 1 million invested.
International studies have also shown major differences in labor intensities of clean energy and fossil fuels. For example, a United Kingdom Research Center report “Low Carbon Jobs” of 2014 found that the average employment creation for fossil fuels was 0.14 jobs per Gigawatt hour, Coal 0.15 and gas 0.15, compared to the average of 0.65 jobs per Gigawatt hour created by renewable energy and 0.80 jobs for every Gigawatt hour created by energy efficiency. Another study found that renewable energy creates almost 4.3 times as many jobs as coal, and nearly 5.4 times that as natural gas.