US: Renewables to Create New Jobs

renewable energy

Rising market demand for renewables could spur job creation and economic benefits in the United States, according to a new study by David Swenson, associate scientist for Iowa State University. The study, which was presented in late July at the TransGrid-X 2030 Symposium on the Iowa State University campus, provides a high-level analysis of the amount of economic activity and job creation that would occur, based upon the expansion of renewable energy as detailed in the  National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Seam Study.

The Swenson Study addresses two different scenarios as found in NREL’s Seam Study from NREL:

• Scenario A includes $40 billion in new transmission infrastructure; $500 billion in new wind, solar and gas-fired generation; 209 GW of retired generation; and 428 GW on replacement generation—this level of activity results in a penetration level of renewable energy on the U.S. grid of about 40%.

• Scenario B includes $80 billion in new transmission infrastructure; $700 billion in new wind, solar and gas-fired generation; 292 GW of retired generation; and 600 GW on replacement generation—this level of activity results in a penetration level of renewable energy on the U.S. grid of approximately 50%.

Here are some of the highlights from Swenson’s study:

  • Capital investment corresponds to new tax bases for states and local communities in the amount of $540 billion to $780 billion
  • New construction jobs would average each year from 2024 to 2038 from 389,000 jobs/yr to 562,000 jobs/year
  • Between 209 GW and 292 GW of existing generation would be retired and replaced with new wind; solar; and natural gas generation totaling 428 GW to 600 GW relative to Scenarios A and B
  • An increase in the penetration level of renewables on the U.S. grid to 40% and 50%

Dr. Robert Godby, director of University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources and Public Policy, says the study provides economic development entities with the benefits derived from the continued growth of renewable energy.

“While the study is neither location nor state-specific, it will allow wind and solar-rich states to much easier set economic expansion/diversification and job growth goals on a state and local level relative to the incremental development of renewable energy generation & transmission infrastructure as projected in the Seam Study,” Godby says. “With up to $780 billion in incremental tax-base and 10’s of thousands of new jobs, it is up to each state to determine its level of support for renewable generation & transmission to achieve maximum benefit from expansions such as the one outlined in the NREL Seam Study.”

The new transmission & generation with the retirements is assumed to occur in a period from 2024 to 2038. Although net O&M job growth is small (due to the influence of retirements), job creation caused by the new investments is very large. In Scenario A, 389,000 construction-related jobs are created for the period from 2024 to 2038 on an average annual basis; the number for Scenario B is 562,00 construction -related jobs To put the amount of job creation in perspective compared to the whole U.S. economy, between 2009 and 2017, the U.S. added an average of 2.23 million jobs per year. Over the years 2024-2038, Scenarios A and B would therefore produce an annual number of jobs equal to 17.4% and 25.4%, respectively of this historical annual job production.

“Energy policy makers in Washington and across the country should pay attention,” stated Jim Hoecker, former FERC Chairman and recent speaker at the TranGrid-X2030 Symposium. “The impressive analysis just released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory – if carried forward as national policy— could go a long way toward ensuring the nation’s future economic strength and security. This so-called ‘Seams Study’, is a roadmap for tying together our disconnected and isolated electricity markets and domestic energy resources with high voltage transmission. It shines a bright light on this critical but often-ignored aspect of our national infrastructure. In addition, the economic impact study by David Swenson amplifies NREL’s idea by demonstrating the enormous employment and economic development potential of major grid expansions.”



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