On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, proposed an initial set of rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by as much as 30% by 2030.
Because the proposal is state specific, each state can decide how it will go about reaching the requirements. States should not have to choose between a strong economy and healthy environment, and provided they come up with a successful mix, there is no reason why they will ever need to make that decision.
The most discussed issue seems to be the feared job loss that would occur as a result of the implementation of this rule. However, in growing industries such as solar technology and biofuel, jobs are available for those with the necessary training and certification.
It looks as if a sustainable workforce boom is on the horizon.
CleanEdison was founded with the intention of providing education and training for a growing renewable workforce. Here are the top five job sectors that we expect to benefit the most from the EPA's proposed plan:
The EPA projects natural gas to account for 32% of U.S. power by 2030. The construction sector could gain a total of 62,500 jobs from the construction of new natural gas plants alone. This is without counting the hundreds of thousands of construction jobs that will be required to upgrade our electric grid and build new transmission lines.
In 2011, the solar industry employed over 100,000 workers, with an expected growth rate of 27,000 net new solar manufacturing jobs the next year, and this was before the EPA proposed the carbon cut rule.
While solar manufacturing has taken a hit as production of photovoltaic components moved offshore, increasing demand and new technologies hold out the promise of bringing some of these jobs back. Moreover, the EPA rules may also spur manufacturing job creation in other cleantech sectors as well, including the following:
- Wind power: Domestically manufactured equipment used in wind turbines 70% in 2011, with 560 factories directly employing 75,000 full-time employees. This number can be expected to grow substantially;
- Hydroelectricity: If the U.S. utilized just 6% to 15% of its untapped hydropower resources, the total number of jobs required to meet that target could generate as many as 700,000 jobs; and
- Geothermal: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal systems are the most efficient of all heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Geothermal energy provides more jobs on a per-megawatt basis than natural gas. Approximately 248.7 million acres of public lands in the western U.S. are areas of identified geothermal potential, and a single geothermal plant generates about 860 jobs.
3. Solar installation and sales
Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the nation. Sales and distribution employed about 23,910 people in 2012, and installation employed 65,571 people. With respective growth rates of 22% and 35%, that's an additional 5,260 and 22,950 jobs.
As the solar sector continues to grow, a steadily growing supply of qualified installers will be needed to support the build-out.
4. Workforce training providers
People need to be trained on how to make, install and maintain a solar panel or build green buildings. This educational workforce can expect to grow in parallel with the demand for a sustainable, qualified workforce.
Every renewable project will necessitate a variety of engineers and technical specialists in a wide array of fields: electrical, civil, information technology, systems management, waste management, simulation modeling, operations, structural, energy analysis. The list goes on. These engineers and certified specialists will all need to design specific solutions for the wave of new clients that will be generated by the EPA's clean power plan.
As conventional energy sources become more costly in both economic and environmental terms, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries are accelerating. In particular, things are looking up for the solar energy industry, which means less dependence on fossil fuels, a greener environment and more jobs.
Although many of these jobs require specific technical skills, harnessing the opportunity in this booming industry is not as intimidating as it may seem.
Camille H. Davis handles business development and public relations at CleanEdison, a New York-based provider of cleantech sector employment education. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.