A firm commitment to low-carbon energy sources could create millions of sustainable new jobs in the United States, according to a report issued last week by the Copenhagen Climate Council (CCC).
"Green Jobs and the Clean Energy Economy" was issued at the World Business Summit on Climate Change, which brought together more than 800 business and government leaders from around the world. Steven Chu was a CCC member before he was chosen by President Obama to lead the Energy Department.
CCC members Dan Kammen and Ditlev Engel, who authored the report, said "appropriate policy frameworks and large-scale strategic investment" in clean energy technologies would spur more employment than fossil fuel investments. They based their findings on a job-creation model developed at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, which Kammen founded, by the University of California, Berkeley. The authors also used case studies, including one by Danish wind power giant Vestas Wind Systems, of which Engel is CEO.
"This report dramatically illustrates the growth and real employment power of green energy jobs not just in the future, but today," said Kammen, who also co-directs the Berkeley Institute of the Environment in California. "Who would not want to replace foreign debt for energy for investing in a trained and innovative workforce?"
According to the findings, a combination of policy scenarios using renewable energy investments and energy efficiency measures could generate two to eight times more jobs per unit of energy delivered than the fossil fuel-based sector. In the United States alone, the study estimates that a national renewable portfolio standard of 25% in 2025 coupled with a 0.5% annual electricity consumption growth rate would generate more than two million jobs, and increasing low-carbon sources by around 50% would generate more than three million jobs.
The measures "would result in a massive 90% of U.S. electricity supply coming from renewable or low-carbon sources," the report said.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) "does not yet appear to be a significant driver for expanding net employment," the report noted. "CCS has a lower job multiplier compared to the average multiplier for renewable technologies. Currently CCS has a lack of viable demonstration plants and large uncertainties in commercial viability, technology and regulatory environment. Unless there are major national initiatives and expansion coupled with rapid technological progress, we do not expect a high penetration rate of the technology by 2020 and hence project relatively smaller employment impacts."
"The recipe for growth and sustainability is very simple: long-term commitments for greenhouse gas emission reductions plus investment in power generation infrastructure," said Engel. "This will drive the market on a sustainable business platform; at Vestas we call that simply 'modern energy.'"
In 2005 Vestas employed 10,000 people worldwide, Engel noted. Today it employs nearly 20,000 employees in 62 countries, including more than 1,700 in the United States. Vestas expects to directly employ 4,000 people in the United States by the end of 2010.
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