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Use of Wind, Solar to Generate Electricity Could Add Millions of Jobs

Q1 2016

According to a recent report from the Virginia-based consulting firm ICF International, a large-scale shift to renewable sources for generating electricity could increase U.S. employment by one million jobs by 2030 and two million jobs by 2050, even after accounting for job losses related to fossil fuels. The transition to wind, solar, and other renewable sources of generation would also provide between $300 and $650 in additional annual disposable income per household in 2050, the report claims.

“While the study does paint an overall rosy picture, it also shows that there would be some losses in the fossil fuel sector compared to business-as-usual,” Dr. Bansari Saha, the report’s author and a senior manager at ICF, told InsideClimate News, a news organization covering climate change, energy, and the environment. “But on the whole we’re better off. There’s always a concern that we can’t actually shift to clean energy without hurting the economy. But it does look like you can under the scenarios modeled here, and you can do it with an overall benefit to the economy,” Saha added.

ICF’s analysis broke down the impact of two specific scenarios on the economy: switching almost entirely to renewables, and using a mix of renewables, nuclear energy, and natural gas. Under either scenario, reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels requires large-scale infrastructure investments in the utility and transportation industries. The annual investments under both scenarios would be $150 billion to $200 billion until 2030, with investments then increasing until 2050.

A majority of the two million new jobs would be in the construction, utility, and manufacturing industries, according to the analysis. The utility business will see the biggest increase in jobs because a shift to cleaner energy sources will mean an increased reliance on the electric transmission grid. As households shift from gas to electric appliances, and as more electric vehicles hit the road, there will be a higher demand for electricity, the report predicts.

While the report’s author admits that the expected job numbers may fluctuate based on actual investments, etc., Saha concludes, “The impact could be significantly lower, but can it switch to negative? No, based on the conditions in this analysis, it doesn't look like it could.”

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