There's More Jobs In a Clean MW Than a Dirty MW

While there are a lot of varying reports on how many green jobs will or will not be created in the coming years, here’s an interesting statistic on the characteristics of a clean power job versus its fossil fuel equivalent: According to research from the Copenhagen Climate Council, “the renewable energy sector generates more jobs per unit of energy delivered than the fossil fuel-based sector.” That’s true for all of the clean power technologies except carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) given that industry has yet to take off, says a report entitled Green Jobs and the Clean Energy Economy and co-authored by Dan Kammen, the Director of the Renewable Energy Lab at UC Berkeley, and Ditlev Engel the CEO of wind firm Vestas.

Kammen told me this week that the Copenhagen Climate Council will be highlighting this research at the upcoming COP15 climate talks, which start in Copenhagen next week. The report says that analysts at McKinsey & Company have come to similar conclusions comparing the wind industry and the oil and gas industries. And in particular the report says that solar photovoltaic technology creates the most jobs per unit of electricity output (see chart above for comparison of clean power jobs per GW).

Why is that? Well, Kammen explained to me via email that it’s basically because these are new industries. Growing fields generate more jobs due to the lack of infrastructure, not necessary due to the fact that the technology is clean per se. It’s called the “risk dividend,” Kammen said. So over a period of time, once that clean power infrastructure is in place, the jobs per MW between clean and fossil-based power could even out.

But for now, the clean power sector it still at such a nascent stage, and renewable energy jobs are quickly emerging. Wind is a sector that has already created many jobs, and the report points out that the European Union currently has 150,000 direct jobs in wind energy, which represents half of its entire clean power sector. The European Wind Energy Association says that 60,000 of those jobs have been created in the last five years. The U.S. Department of Energy says that almost 26,000 jobs will be created in the U.S. wind industry to meet a goal of the U.S. generating 20 percent of its electricity from wind. Wind turbine maker Vestas alone in the U.S. currently employs 1,700 employees and expects to directly employ 4,000 by the end of 2010.

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