By Dr Anthony Horton
I wanted to start 2016 on a positive note, and thankfully I have found just the report to do that. A collaborative report by Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) and 350.org based on research from Synapse Energy Economics (SEE) in the United States provides a road map for energy efficiency and renewable energy. It presents a practical realistic way by which the US can end its contribution to global warming. The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money report claims it will achieve the following four important goals by 2050:
- transform the US electricity generation and supply system by halving coal fired power generation by 2030 and completely eliminating it by 2050
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 86% below 1990 levels
- reduce expenditure on electricity, heating and transportation by $78 billion
- create more than 500,000 jobs each year.
The additional jobs will largely be in the manufacturing and construction sectors according to the report. In addition, growth in those sectors will help to counteract the growing inequality within the American labor market. Deliberate policies are needed to create new opportunities and pipelines for groups that have tended to be excluded from higher wage jobs the most. As part of the research for the report, SEE examined the entire electricity generation and supply systems, light vehicle transport (e.g. cars and light trucks), space and water heating and waste management. It assumes that petrol fueled light vehicles and the majority of space and water heating will be fueled entirely by renewable energy.
Three challenges are discussed in The Clean Energy Future report. Firstly, as greenhouse gases precipitate an increase in surface temperature, the way we use fossil fuels is disrupting climate systems that have allowed human civilisations to prosper. Secondly, as high paying and stable jobs continue to disappear, attaining middle class lifestyle is becoming less likely for an increasingly large percentage of US people. Lastly, the majority of people can’t afford and few people are willing to consider costly solutions to economic or environmental issues.
With respect to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a reference case was modeled alongside the Clean Energy Future strategy. The reference case includes policies that were implemented prior to the USEPA Clean Power Plan (which was announced in August this year) and assumptions from the Annual Energy Outlook prepared by the US Department of Energy. The Clean Energy Future scenario assumes that present renewable energy trends will continue and accelerate as a result of additional policies.
Compared to the numbers of jobs required for the business as usual reference case (in terms of fossil fuel fueled power), far more jobs will be required in energy efficiency initiatives, renewable energy production and the manufacture of electric vehicles. The average net gain in jobs from 2016 to 2050 is 550,000 per year, although from 2016-2020 approximately 200,000 new jobs per year are expected. In the period 2046 to 2050, up to 800,000 jobs new jobs per year are expected.
In terms of a timeline from 2016-2050, energy efficiency initiatives will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs initially, followed by another wave in the 2020s as a result of renewable energy programs being implemented. As part of this job creation prediction, wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy equipment will be constructed, installed and maintained. Increased employment in the motor vehicle industry is expected in the 2030s as electric vehicles become a critical part of the emissions reduction scenario. In the 2040s, the strategy extends for jobs to be created by net energy savings which are spent on other purchases.
Over the next 35 years, a predicted $78 billion in energy savings from The Clean Energy Future scenario represents $7 per person per year. Compared to the reference case, The Clean Energy Future spends more on energy efficiency and renewable energy and less on fossil fuels, upgrades and pollution controls at existing power plants. In doing so, it advocates a faster adoption of low cost resources that have been under-utilised in the existing market. Replacing fossil fuels with cleaner alternatives also boosts local employment.
Energy efficiency programs employ large numbers of staff in the construction phase when insulation is installed and other measures are being implemented. Manufacturing jobs will oversee the production of efficient lighting, appliances and other devices. Onshore wind turbines and photovoltaic infrastructure are projected to create 12 and 14 jobs for each $1 million of revenue respectively compared to coal fired plants that create 9 jobs for each $1 million of revenue.
About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.
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