New book: Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development by Joan Fitzgerald

We're pleased to bring you an excerpt from a new book on the green economy: Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development by Joan Fitzgerald.

Emerald Cities examines how cities are growing their local economy through green sectors like renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, transportation, and waste management. The book also discusses the state and national policy needed to support these efforts, and how this economic growth can create good jobs for urban communities in need of opportunity.

Read on for an excerpt:

How Many Green Jobs, Really?

There is a lot of enthusiasm about the green economy, but not much agreement on exactly how many jobs it includes. Researchers define the green economy in different ways. They don’t agree on what industries to include, and some focus on occupations rather than industries. Researchers also disagree on how to measure the green job potential (some measure existing jobs and others potential future jobs). The most common method is the use of input-output models. These models analyze the job potential of an output, say a wind turbine, by estimating how an increase in demand will create jobs—not only in producing the actual turbine, but in the industries producing the inputs. Direct jobs are those created in the turbine factory. Indirect jobs are those created from producing the inputs. There is also a multiplier effect, via the jobs in other sectors that result from the increased production of the output—the workers in the new wind production facility will require housing, groceries, schools, etc.

Some studies estimate the number of jobs that would be created with a certain dollar amount of investment in the technology, while others estimate based on the amount of the technology produced (e.g., jobs per megawatt installed in the case of renewable energy). There is agreement that not all green jobs will be new jobs. Many, if not most, will be existing jobs, but workers will be producing different products or services (e.g., changing their output from gas guzzlers to hybrid cars, from products made with new inputs to products made with recycled inputs, from auto glass to solar panels, from inefficient to efficient buildings). And all agree that there will be job losses in some sectors as green sectors grow (e.g., jobs in the coal industry or domestic oil industry will decline). As the world searches for clean technologies, new products and processes for producing them are being invented. Some of the clean technologies that will drive the economy may not even exist yet, which is part of why it is so difficult to define their job creation potential.

The broadest framing of the scope of green jobs is “clean tech,” defined as goods and services that promote conservation of natural resources and provide cost savings to the end user. Cleantech Group identifies ten economic sectors, with jobs in each ranging from manufacturing to research and development. They include agriculture and nutrition, air quality, enabling technologies (e.g., manufacturing process technologies), energy technology (clean energy generation, storage, efficiency, and infrastructure), environmental information technology, materials and nanotechnology, materials recovery and recycling, manufacturing/ industrial, transportation and logistics, and water purification and management.[A] There are several other definitions of clean tech, and the term is often used interchangeably with green tech. While clean tech helps us understand the technologies that will drive the economy in the energy/climate era, it does not lend itself to a good accounting of net job creation. Employment data are collected by industry and occupation, and these categories are neither.

Many of the green job studies focus on renewable energy. The United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that 2.3 million people are employed directly in renewable energy worldwide. Of these, 400,000 are in wind, 170,000 are in solar photovoltaics, 624,000 in solar thermal, and more than 1 million in biomass and biofuels.[B]

In an effort to sift through studies using different methodologies and different units of employment (e.g., jobs per kilowatt hour, full-time job equivalents, person-years of employment) in the United States, Daniel Kammen and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley analyzed 13 recent studies of the job creation potential of renewable energy. What is particularly valuable about Kammen’s analysis is that it estimates the number of jobs that would be created through 2020 under several policy scenarios (in this case different national renewable portfolio standards). The most optimistic scenario estimates total U.S. employment in renewable energy at 188,018 by 2020, with a 20 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020 (met 40% by biomass, 55% by wind energy, and 5% by solar).[C] If the United States were producing for an export market, employment could increase as much as 16 times these estimates.

The Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) uses a “calculator” to estimate the number of jobs that could result from renewable energy development under different renewable portfolio standards or other programs to accelerate renewable energy development. The calculator is based on a survey of industry practices in manufacturing, installation, and operating and maintaining practices for each renewable energy technology analyzed (solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal).
The calculator estimates the number and types of jobs for each renewable technology by year per installed megawatt of capacity, assuming that most inputs would be produced in the United States.[D] The reports assume that many of the component parts of domestic manufacturers producing wind turbines and solar panels in the United States will be domestic, an assumption that hasn’t held up in practice. If the United States committed to producing 25 percent of our
electricity from renewable sources by 2025, more than 850,000 manufacturing jobs would be created.[E]

The green economy goes far beyond renewable energy, but these jobs are easier to estimate than for, say, energy efficiency endeavors. For these, researchers must establish criteria of what is sufficiently efficient to meet a threshold above which economic activity and related jobs can be considered green. Most agree that efficiency-related jobs are likely to vastly outweigh jobs in renewable energy, particularly over the next five years.

Casting the net even wider, Robert Pollin and colleagues at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst estimated that 1.7 million net new jobs could be created over two years with $150 billion of funding on green infrastructure in six areas: retrofitting buildings, expanding mass transit and freight rail, building a smart electric grid, wind power, solar power, and next-generation biofuels. The report identifies occupations within these areas that would experience employment demand. Although many of these jobs would put laid- off workers back to work, some would be new jobs.[F]

Whether counting direct, indirect, or induced jobs, determining what a green job is and calculating exactly how many of them there are is not an exact science. What is evident is that green investments create jobs—all kinds of jobs. How many? Even by the most conservative estimates, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of new jobs—and maybe millions. The actual number will depend on the policy we put in place.

[A]Cleantech Group does not include traditional environmental technologies such as air pollution control, remediation, and hazardous waste management, making a distinction between technologies that remediate existing pollution and complying with state or federal regulations and clean-tech products and services, which are developed to avoid these problems to begin with.
[B] Renner, Sweeeney, and Kubit, 2008.
[C]Kammen, Kapadia, and Fripp, 2004 (updated 2006).
[D]Several REPP reports are referenced in this chapter.
[E] Blue-Green Alliance, 2009.
[F] Pollin, Heintz, and Garrett-Peltier, 2009; Pollin, Wicks-Lim, and Garrett-Peltier, 2009. The $150 billion includes $100 billion from the stimulus and $50 billion from the proposed American Clean Energy and Security Act (passed by the House in 2009). The model used estimates that it takes $60,000 to create one clean-energy job, including direct, indirect, and induced effects.