How Many Green Jobs?

While I recently wrote an article on Green Job Opportunities, until today I was unaware of just how many green jobs there actually are. Sure, I know it’s a fast-growing field, and many of the e-mails I get are asking about job opportunities in the sector. Today, a study was released by Worldwatch Institute that provides some answers:

Jobs in Renewable Energy Expanding

Currently about 2.3 million people worldwide work either directly in renewables or indirectly in supplier indus­tries. Given incomplete data, this is in all like­lihood a conservative figure. The wind power industry employs some 300,000 people, the solar photovoltaics (PV) sector accounts for an estimated 170,000 jobs, and the solar thermal industry, at least 624,000. More than 1 million jobs are found in the biomass and biofuels sector. Small-scale hydropower and geothermal energy are far smaller employers.

You might be surprised – as I was – to learn this:

For instance, Kenya has one of the largest and most dynamic solar markets in the developing world. There are 10 major solar PV import companies, and the country has an estimated 1,000-2,000 solar technicians. In Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti has installed more than 100,000 solar home systems in rural communities in a few years-one of the fastest-growing solar PV programs in the world-and is aiming for 1 million by 2015, along with the creation of some 100,000 jobs for local youth and women as solar technicians and repair and maintenance specialists.

This story was also reported in the Christian Science Monitor’s ‘bright green blog’:

Study: green jobs rising, fossil fuel jobs falling

This article reports some additional details, such as the number of workers in the geothermal (25,000) and hydropower (39,000) sectors, and for comparison notes that 7 million are employed in the coal industry.

Finally, a number of people have asked me to comment on T. Boone Pickens’ new energy plan. I have started to look at it, and began to look at natural gas reserves in the U.S. to determine whether his proposal is realistic given our natural gas situation. But natural gas reserves are a very muddled picture, and it will take some time to sort it out. At first glance, as a proponent of more CNG vehicles, there are certainly aspects of the plan that I like. In the interim, I would point you to Geoff Styles’ excellent crique: A Man, A Plan.

18 thoughts on “How Many Green Jobs?”

  1. I hate to be cynical every waking moment, but….the employment in renewable industries may be what sustains the industry,,,that is, renewables gain clout through employment, then lobbying and campaign contributions etc….pretty soon, people in renewables start talk about the need for lower tax rates, capital investment, national security, that they create jobs….start wearing those flag lapel pins….
    I always say this to my greenie-weenie friends: Talk about prosperity, jobs and national security, not “cutting back’ in any way….

  2. Around here we have been debating the Pickens plan vigorously. The weakness is transmission. By the end of 2008 wind power in West Texas is expected to exceed the 9,000 MW capacity of the power lines. Expanding wind power will require massive investment in new transmission and right of way – exposing the developers to every imaginable environmental lawsuit and delaying tactic.

    We also don’t believe that CNG or LNG for transport is the answer. CNG for fleets work because the vehicles drive short distances and can return to a central refueling point each night. CNG conversions reduce vehicle range and eliminate trunk space – not something consumers will want.

    What works is flex fuel conversion. For only a few hundred dollars cars could be equipped to run on gasoline, methanol, or ethanol interchangeably. Diesel engines could be made to run on conventional, biodiesel, or DME. You could also have flex fuel hybrids since the CNG tank and the battery pack wouldn’t be fighting each other for space.

    This makes the solution non-fuel specific. We can make methanol, ethanol or DME from either coal or natural gas much easier than we can make Fischer-Tropsch liquids. This plan is the centerpiece of Robert Zubrin’s book and a new video from the Zucker brothers:

    Nozzle Rage

  3. I think to good thing about Pickens plan is, too push renewables in the toal energy mix.

    Making such push, requires shifting with energy like in a 15-puzzle.

    I think it is more logical to keep the gas for electricity generation, because it is more flexible.

    Convert some coal plants producing methanol or using FT-process. This gives more CO2 than oil, but you remove them from electricity production. So, you improve on CO2. It is a good step to more renewables.

    The car-industry is moving to flex-fuel cars, so a move to methanol should work now (and is cheaper than FT, as I understand).

    The argument that the powerlines are expensive, is void. You have to build them anyway, sooner or later. And, what Pickens says, 700 billion a year going out of the USA.


  4. King-

    Yeah, everybody wants the good life, but nobody wants that rendering plant next to their house….

    Still, a few extra power lines doesn’t strike me as a problem….where possible, just run them down existing lines…buy right of way from railroads, and put ’em down freeways etc. Get creative.

    The salvation may be the increasingly corrupt nature of our pols….now, U.S. Senators quit mid-term to become lobbyists (like Trent Lott). So, hell, just buy the pols and be done with it….

    once the green industries became big industry, they can start payoffs like everybody else….

  5. Benny – a lot of the big interstate gas pipelines got built during WWII carrying gas from the Gulf Coast to the northeast. We could do the same with power lines if we had the will to do it. Just run them from Denver to Philadelphia along I-70 in the median. Either loop around the major cities or bury them.

    Limit the appeals and raise the burden of proof for environmental lawsuits. If AGW and energy security really are major problems then we can’t let nuisance endangered species and other lawsuits get in the way.

  6. On the , I like as much wind (or thermal solar) as we can build and fit into the grid.
    But as far as CNG for transportation goes, isn’t our infrastructure set up for liquids? Would it make sense to turn the NG into a liquid fuel. I would also like to see a big nuclear part added to the plan. The Nuke power could go toward generating electricity or be used as a heat and hydrogen source for coal to liquids.

  7. I always say this to my greenie-weenie friends: Talk about prosperity, jobs and national security, not “cutting back’ in any way….

    quite right Benny. Cutting and conserving reduces loss and focusing on conservation only can put you in a place where you have no more resources to move forward. if we are going to survive, we need some form of local energy and transportation development. If I had any money to bet with, I would put my money on solar panels on suburban rooftops and on a reference design for a three wheeled 45 mph class high-efficiency vehicle.

    The reason behind my thinking is that a suburban house usually has enough square footage for panels so that the property can generate in eight hours somewhat more energy than the property consumes in 12 to 16 hours. If you combine efficiency improvements with the same panels, it’s possible to become a net energy producer for some fraction of the year. the other advantage is that the land is in use and therefore solar panels make a good additional use of the same square footage

    The reason behind my vehicle thinking is that it probably isn’t terribly cost or energy effective running a 3 miles per gallon bus on every other street for 18 hours a day. I believe that short distance vehicles will be necessary for short distance life. it also enables transit systems to aggregate riders on a smaller number of routes thereby making them more efficient.

    one more thing I would invest in. I would invest in buses designed to carry one bicycle or electric scooter (complete with charger) for every passenger. This is keeping in line with the small vehicles aggregating traffic on a smaller number of routes. It makes no sense to have transportation on one side but not at the other end of your route. For those who advocate rental bicycles and the like, it won’t work for me. At 6 foot two with size 15 feet, almost everything is custom made for me. I have yet to see a scooter smaller than a Suzuki burgman 400 have enough room for feet, legs, or knees. Most upright bicycles also don’t fit. They just don’t have the range and for reasons related to severe damage caused by an upright seat, I only ride recumbents. Since I’m not the only person with this class of problem, might as well design for everyone to have their own last mile transportation.

    note: this is potentially very off topic but in a way relevant. I believe one way we can solve part of our transportation problems is to come up with a reference design which is licensed to local manufacturers and then sold/maintained locally through a set of local dealers. Licensing is a tool to enforce quality/standards of manufacturer and maybe revenue to develop new ideas/plans. The Chinese do this by accident(??). If you look at most Chinese scooters, they all have the same fuel injection, motor, transmission components. In fact many cases the entire design is the same. Why can’t we do the same consciously and make it a green product producing local jobs?

    Just an idea.

  8. Given the current mandate / subsidy situation with windpower there is a very real risk that wind generation will repeat the history of ethanol.

    It will be a boondoggle driven by government policy that will not produce any useful amounts of energy.

    The fact that windpower installation is mandated / subsidized while transmission infrastructure has been utterly ignored is a very good indication that wind may be on the ethanol path.


  9. I would be interested in hearing what kingofkaty, Robert and others think of this article on the impact of windpower on natural gas peaking plants

    In a just-released article for the journal Energy Policy, titled will British weather provide reliable electricity?, consulting engineer Jim Oswald and his co-authors model the output to be expected from a large, 25+ gigawatt UK windfarm collection

    He says that most people, in allowing for gas backup to wind farms, assume that the current situation of gas-turbine usage applies. Not so, he says. Gas turbines used to compensate for wind will need to be cheap (as they won’t be on and earning money as often as today’s) and resilient (to cope with being throttled up and down so much). Even though the hardware will be cheap and tough, it will break often under such treatment; meaning increased maintenance costs and a need for even more backup plants to cover busted backup plants. Thus, the scheme overall will be more expensive than the current gas sector. And since people won’t want to thrash expensive, efficient combined-cycle kit like this, less fuel-efficient gear will be used – emitting more carbon than people now assume.


  10. First of all let me congratulate you on a putting up a really informative blog.
    Regarding the jobs in renewable energy sector, there is obviously a huge room for expansion and development in this sector which is bound to create employment opportunities. However i would like to add that it is not just the renewable energy sector but also the oil and gas industry that has a lot of job opportunities.
    Workers needed in Oil fields
    I am doing B.E. in petroleum engineering and one of the main reason why i chose this field was the availability of jobs specially in the drilling side.
    I suppose the huge investments in the energy sector, as a whole, have created plenty of new jobs as newer fields are developed and more power plants are built to meet the rising energy demands.

  11. In Canada, we know that there will be 17,000 needed in technical positions in the electricity sector over the next 10 years, though not necessarily to support green power. We know that 13,000 jobs will need to be filled in the wind industry by 2012 if current growth rates hold up, and that more than a third of those jobs will need to be skilled, specialized workers. According to the Ontario Centres of Excellence, we know that Canada’s educational infrastructure with respect to renewable energy technology is “still on the drawing board” and that “demand for renewable energy specialists will outstrip supply from existing programs.” Today, most renewable energy practitioners are self-taught or have been trained through programs in other countries.

Comments are closed.