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US renewable electricity standard - 274,000 jobs

A US national renewable electricity standard (RES) of 25% by 2025 could create thousands of jobs and help fledgling industries like wind grow, as short-term tax benefits expire.

A national renewable electricity standard would support the cumulative equivalent of 2.36 million job-years of work, compared with no national policy. And the 274,000 renewable energy job estimate is significantly higher than the expected jobs supported in the current House and Senate provisions under consideration in Congress, according to a recent study.

The study Job Impacts of a National Renewable Electricity Standard was conducted by the independent consulting firm Navigant for the Renewable Electricity Standard Alliance.

The renewable energy job study also notes that, without stronger near-term targets than currently envisioned, industries like wind energy will experience flat job growth and long-term stagnation, while the US biomass industry could collapse completely.

Renewable energy businesses need long-term market prospects to invest in manufacturing and related facilities, and the researchers warn that the current system of production and investment tax credits, some of which last only a year, cannot provide that certainty.

Policy

The RES Alliance recommends raising near-term renewable energy targets in federal legislation to 12% in 2014 and to 20% in 2020. Currently, 28 states and the District of Columbia have some form of renewable electricity standard, and the House has passed a climate bill that would require 20% from renewable sources by 2020 while the Senate energy committee wants 15% renewable energy by 2021.

The report points to southeastern states where the major source of low-carbon electricity is from nuclear reactors. Supporters of a renewable electricity standard do not want nuclear to be counted in low-emission policy, and regional utilities note that massive supplies of biomass would be their only renewable energy alternative since their regions lack wind and solar resources.

States that will gain the most from a strong renewable electricity standard are:

  • Southeastern states like Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida that can benefit from substantial biomass and municipal solid waste-to-energy;
  • Traditional manufacturing states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, which will gain from growth in a wide range of technologies;
  • Midwestern states like North and South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois, home to major wind resources;
  • Western states like Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and California, where solar, wind and hydropower have significant growth potential;
  • States that currently do not have a renewable electricity standard or targets like Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama; and
  • States that would lose renewable electricity jobs unless a national policy is passed, like Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Delaware, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

While tax credits continue to play a critically important role in preserving the viability of existing facilities, a renewable electricity standard is needed to support both near- and long-term investments, the report notes. The study is the first to examine the job impacts in both the near- and long-term.

Members of the RES Alliance Include: AES Wind Generation, Applied Materials, Bluewater Wind, BP Wind, Covanta, E.ON Climate & Renewables, enXco, Gamesa, General Electric, Horizon Wind Energy, Iberdrola Renewables, Invenergy, Mesa Power, NextEra Energy Resources, Pattern Energy Group, Renewable Energy Systems Americas, REpower USA, Ridgeline Wind Power, Vestas, Wind Capital Group, as well as the American Wind Energy Association, Biomass Power Association, Large-scale Solar Association, National Hydropower Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

 

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This article is featured in:
Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Wind power

 

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