The Shining Future of the GREEN Economy
*Employment in clean and renewable energy features, most substantially, jobs in energy efficiency; including jobs in Energy Star, in producing LED and CFL lighting, and manufacturing electric vehicles (EVs). Jobs in the smart grid, maintaining smart meters, and in clean energy storage are also included in the over 3 million clean energy jobs in the United States figure (cited below). With regard to sustainable transportation, jobs in EV, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicle production, in addition to jobs in sustainable mass transit, and in biofuel production, are included. Clean energy jobs are also jobs in solar, wind, and other jobs in renewable energy (RE) production, managing RE, and distribution of the RE.
Renewable Energy Jobs are UP
Coal provides Americans with less than 80,000 jobs; but only about half that number of jobs in the United States are in actual coal mining, the rest of the jobs in U.S. coal are in associated jobs, like transporting the coal and maintaining the coal mines, or in maintaining coal-fired power plants. Wind/ solar/ clean energy industry jobs support Americans in OVER 3 MILLION (good paying) jobs. So, purely from a standpoint of looking at renewable energy vs. fossil fuels entirely from how the United States' economy is affected by focusing more on renewables; especially regarding employment opportunities, renewable energy is quite a bit better than fossil fuels.
The following is a snippet from E2.org on the clean energy job market in the U.S.-
"At the start of 2020, clean energy employment increased for the fifth straight year since this annual report was first released—growing beyond 3.3 million workers nationwide.
While California remained the nation’s undisputed leader in clean energy jobs through 2019, states as diverse in size and structure as Texas and Massachusetts also are in the top ten for clean energy jobs. Florida, North Carolina and Georgia continued to lead the South, while Michigan, Illinois and Ohio led the Midwest. On a per capita basis of statewide total employment, the Northeast claimed the top five spots with Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Delaware employing the largest share of clean energy jobs per capita in the country." FROM - e2.org/reports/clean-jobs-america-2020
Here's a snippet from The Hill's - Changing America on how clean energy jobs pay up to 25% more on average than the median wage in the U.S.-
"In the clean energy industry, which includes wind [and solar] power, grid modernization, and battery storage [among other job sectors], employees earn a salary of $50,000, an average of $25 an hour. Conversely, the national median hourly wage in 2019 was $19.14, which totaled to an annual salary of $38,000." FROM - thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/clean-energy-jobs-pay-25-percent-more
Clean energy jobs provide the most job opportunity even in the middle of the country; the Plains states, the Midwest, and in the Southern states>>>
Overall, when you add the rest of clean energy jobs to jobs directly in renewable energy, there are over 3 million jobs in clean energy, including energy efficiency-related jobs, clean energy storage jobs, and clean transportation jobs, in the United States. Employment that is directly in renewable energy in the U.S. features jobs in solar and wind; although jobs in hydroelectricity, biomass, and geothermal energy are also included.
Wind turbine technician is the single fastest growing job in the United States. Solar energy also has impressive employment growth statistics, with about 1 in 50 new jobs created in the United States coming from the solar industry. The fastest growing job in solar is solar panel installer. Sustainability professional, sustainable builder, and clean car engineer, are also among the fastest growing jobs in clean energy, and the United States as a whole.
There are 3 times more jobs in the clean energy sector than in fossil fuels. There are over 2 million Americans who have energy efficiency jobs; energy efficiency is the fastest growing employment opportunity sector of the U.S. economy. The majority of jobs in energy efficiency are in construction and manufacturing, although many jobs in the energy efficiency sector are in Energy Star, smart grid, and energy storage. 1 in every 6 American construction jobs are in energy efficiency. The future of employment in the energy sector is in clean energy, energy efficiency, and renewable energy, not in fossil fuels.
This article in Mother Jones sums it up perfectly:
Wind [and solar] farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest [and Southwest U.S.], where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished.
In the "wind belt" between Texas and North Dakota, the price of wind energy is finally equal to and in some cases cheaper than that of fossil fuels. Thanks to investments in transmission lines, better computer controls, and more efficient turbines, the cost to US consumers fell two-thirds in just six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Still, not all windy states have a turbine-friendly climate. In Wyoming, for example, coal-loving legislators passed a tax on wind energy in 2010 and are also considering penalizing utilities for including renewables in their portfolios.
The next few years will see a showdown between "rural Republicans who really want to get the economic boost [wind & solar, other renewables] offers to their district, versus Republican ideologues who don't like renewables because they like fossil fuels"—and whose campaign contributions depend on protecting them.
So farmers—and voters —will have to fight for wind [and other renewables] which, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, offer the greatest potential for growth in US renewable power generation.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy sector is adding over 1/2 million jobs annually worldwide, for a growth rate of over 5%, far eclipsing the potential for growth and employment potential in fossil fuels.
Forbes says that by switching from coal to renewable energy, the United States' economy will save billions of dollars, in part by taking advantage of the lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of renewable energy sources vs. fossil fuels; and by avoiding the cost of negative externalities of fossil fuels (the cost of damage to public health and damage to the environment of fossil fuels). The cost savings to the United States economy by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy includes, most significantly, reducing the cost of mitigation and adaptation to anthropogenic climate change by investing in sustainable technologies such as renewable energy and energy efficiency vs. fossil fuels.
The renewable energy industry employs over 500,000 people in the United States. The coal industry is responsible for under 120,000 jobs in the U.S. (see: nytimes.com/interactive/climate/todays-energy-jobs-are-in-solar-not-coal). There is already billions of dollars invested in installed renewable energy capacity in the United States, including over $12 billion private investment in 2018 United States wind energy alone. Individual states that are leaders in solar & hydroelectricity include coastal and southwest states, especially west and northeast coastal states for hydroelectricity, and southwest states for solar. Wind energy production is dominated by states in the Plains and Midwest–
*** Please note that states like California create a lot of solar energy, but even more hydroelectricity. Hydroelectricity is produced in higher quantities as far as overall energy production in California (over 20% of the state’s energy is from hydroelectric sources), and that makes hydroelectricity the dominant form of renewable energy in the state. However, California produces a substantial amount of solar energy (over 11% statewide). California, Washington, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Washington DC have all committed to the goal of 100% renewable energy. A few other states plan to follow suit.
For a set of policies focused on increasing the momentum of clean job growth in the United States, please see Green City Times' Guide to Green Public Policies
Renewable Energy costs are down
The cost of producing energy with renewable energy vs. fossil fuels is dramatically lower when just the cost of producing electricity (marginal cost) is considered. When the costs of the negative externalities (negative externalities of fossil fuels- damage/ cost to the environment and public health, climate change) associated with fossil fuel production are added in with the LCOE*, the relative cost of renewable energy sources vs. the cost of fossil fuels is lower still. The negative externalaties associated with coal are particularly dire; not only black lung in coal miners, also a general public health hazard in fine particulates, and other toxins, emitted into the air during the energy production process with coal. Those public health issues are in addition to coal's significant contribution to anthropogenic climate change, and other forms of air, land, and water pollution associated with coal.
Overall, the lowest cost of energy production is wind (which also has minimal negative externalities), followed by natural gas (which carries the cost of negative externalities), followed by renewable energy sources, most significantly solar (minimal negative externalities). Hydroelectricity also represents a relatively low cost source of domestic energy for the United States. Producing energy from coal is no longer cheaper than renewables or gas, and is damaging to public health and the environment.
*Examples of levelized costs of energy include: up-front capital costs/ costs of initial investment (which are much higher for renewable energy than fossil fuel energy), marginal cost of the fuel source (which is much higher for fossil fuels, and almost nothing for free, abundant sources of renewable energy like solar and wind energy, and very low cost for hydro, geothermal, and biomass), cost of maintenance for the power plant/ energy farm/ dam, etc... , cost of transporting the fuel (again, zero for most renewable energy), costs associated with transmitting/ distributing the energy, insurance costs for the energy producing facility, etc...
"Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competitiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-MWh cost (in discounted real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. 4 Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant." - quote from the EIA. In this chart, you can clearly see how much more expensive nuclear and coal are projected to remain in comparison to renewables-
For the initial capital costs, nuclear is the most expensive form of energy. The "good" thing about nuclear energy production is that there are low marginal costs, and there are little to no negative externalities with regard to the actual energy production, i.e. little to no GHG emissions... and you just have to find Yucca mountains to bury the radioactive waste so people aren't exposed to potentially cancer-causing radiation...and we have to hope that there's not a Fukushima-type catastrophe. However, future planned 4th generation nuclear power plants will be safe, autonomous, more sustainable than current nuclear plants, and more cost-efficient.
For the future the first half of this century, nuclear energy is going to remain an unlikely ally to clean energy in the fight against anthropogenic climate change. Coal is out for the reasons stated above; coal is no longer a viable, cost-efficient energy fuel source. Petroleum is mostly used to fuel vehicles around the world (although hopefully, the world population will continue to move toward electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and hybrid cars); and it's safe to assume diesel generators will sill be used to produce energy, largely for third world and island nations that continue to assume that form of energy is necessary.
Renewable energy and natural gas are the future of energy production, as seen in this recent study by the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute. Overall, renewable energy (and natural gas) are both cheaper sources of fuel for energy production AND better, larger sources of employment; thus, renewable energy is better for the environment AND the economy.
For more information on these, and similar topics, please see: