The personal economics of clean energy systems such as solar energy panels, wind and geothermal power are phenomenal. Property owners with installed clean energy systems are generating returns on investment anywhere from 6% to 30% over the 25-30 year life span of the systems. But what about the macro economics? Is there a good story to tell there? We’re happy to report that there is. The clean energy sector is responsible for significant job growth. Here are a few interesting findings from a recent Brookings study, Sizing the Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.
Renewable Energy Helps Environment and U.S. Job Market
- The renewable energy industry employs 2.7 million workers. That’s more workers than the entire fossil fuel industry – oil, gas, & coal – employs. These workers are in mature segments such as manufacturing and public services as well as in newer, emerging segments that respond to energy-related challenges, e.g. solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, fuel cells, smart grid, biofuel and battery industries.
- Renewable energy technology segments – including solar, wind, geothermal, hydro – produced explosive job gains and the clean economy outperformed the nation during the recession.
- The clean economy offers more opportunities and better pay for low-and middle-skilled workers than the national economy as a whole. This provides a ray of hope for many who were hit hardest by the recent recession.
- Contrary to many media reports, the clean & renewable energy industry is now a key source of energy in the U.S. and all signs point to it becoming an even larger part of the U.S. energy supply.
- Combined electricity production from renewable resources has exceeded production from all nuclear power plants in the U.S.
- The cost of building a new solar farm is now less than the cost of building a nuclear power plant.
In this period of sluggish recovery, these findings point to clean energy as a possible accelerator. Just as FDR’s New Deal sought to provide relief and recovery through innovative programs, investments now in clean energy could prove to be the key to our own relief and recovery.