Anastasia Pantsios | November 11, 2014 8:30 am
A new study by the UK’s Energy Research Centre (UKERC) took a deep dive into job creation claims made by proponents of renewable energy and energy efficiency, looking at the figures and projected figures for the EU from a number of angles. It came to the conclusion that in the short run, moving to renewables and ramping up energy conservation would create more jobs than the fossil fuel sector, at a rate of about one job per gigawatt hour of electricity saved or generated by a clean energy source, with the long-term picture murkier because of factors in the economy and government policy that are hard to predict.
Building new renewable generation capacity or investing in greater energy efficiency to avoid the need for new generation would create more jobs than investing in an equivalent level of fossil fuel-fired generation. Photo credit: Shutterstock
The report, Low Carbon Jobs: The evidence for net job creation from policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy, said, “‘Green’ sectors account for as many as 3.4 million jobs in the EU, or 1.7 percent of all paid employment, more than car manufacturing or pharmaceuticals. Given the size of the green jobs market, and the expectation of rapid change and growth, there is a pressing need to independently analyse labour market dynamics and skills requirements in these sectors. What is more controversial is the question of whether policy-driven expansion of specific green sectors actually creates jobs, particularly when the policies in question require subsidies that are paid for through bills or taxes. Politicians often cite employment benefits as part of the justification for investing in clean energy projects such as renewables and energy efficiency. However, other literature is more sceptical, claiming that any intervention that raises costs in the energy sector will have an adverse impact on the economy as a whole.”
The report focused not simply on job creation, but on net job creation, subtracting the number of fossil fuel-based jobs that could potentially be displaced by spending on green infrastructure projects. It also employs “counterfactuals”: what other power generation sources would have been built instead without green policies. It says that over-optimistic green jobs figures don’t take this into account. But it also says that jobs skeptics tend to be overly broad in their application of counterfactuals.