Why a National Renewable Energy Standard *Is* a Jobs Bill

Last week, the American Wind Energy Association held a webinar that went through a study by Navigant Consulting, pointing to the many ways passing a national renewable electricity standard would lead to an economic boon across the U.S.

It seems that the FOXNews message that a climate change bill would hurt job growth is untrue. (Surprised?) Paired with rigorous renewable energy standards, Navigant Consulting suggests that 274,000 blue collar construction jobs could be added in areas of the country that need both jobs and renewable energy. While Navigant based its assumptions on the big “if” that climate change legislation passes both houses, however its study should increase the momentum toward such a result.

The bad news is that without a climate change/ increased renewable energy standard combination, all states will see renewable energy jobs cut between the years 2010 and 2025, with the heaviest losses in California. Why? Because without increasing requirements for sustainable energy that drive up the demand for renewable energy in other states, California’s proliferating cleantech business is likely to plateau after meeting California’s needs.

The good news? The opposite is true when renewable electricity (and likely energy in general, though Navigant focused on electricity) standards are made national. In this scenario, states with big cleantech businesses–California, Texas, Massachusetts and Colorado, for example–can export technology and expertise to states in need. The other good news is that states that represent renewable energy “blue ocean” will see job growth proportionate to their renewable energy adoption. The only state that is not projected to see job benefits from national renewable electricity standards is Alabama, a state thus far resistant to renewable energy advocacy and still a strong fossil fuel producer. The other, other good news is that this level of renewable energy requirements would keep renewable energy jobs in the US that may otherwise be exported to Asia.

The type of job an RES would supply is significant too; the jobs are projected to be concentrated in manufacturing and construction, with moderate (10,000) to strong (20,000+) job creation projected throughout the South, MidWest and Rust Belt (but still low in Western states like Idaho, Utah Wyoming, Nevada and New Mexico, probably reflecting the smaller populations of these states). Job growth in these areas may help stem losses from Big Auto’s implosion, and Florida’s very strong projected job growth may work to balance its massive losses from the housing sector.

Part of the reason that this growth has not already taken off is that renewable energy tax incentives are currently doled out on a short term basis, up for renewal or rejection annually, or every two years. This truncated timeframe makes the certainty required for long term investment possible. However, a national climate bill paired with strong renewable energy standards guarantees momentum–and consumers–for years to come.

So, while Obama is nuts for nuclear, and not in a good way, the real job growth potential is found in encouraging renewable energy’s national market. AWEA urges people in ‘target states’ to call their representatives to support a national renewable electricity standard. Find the report (including awesome charts) on AWEA’s website here.

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