Doing the Math on Green Jobs

Image courtsey of Navigant Consulting/RES Alliance.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


“Clean energy jobs” get a lot of lip-service these days. But just how many of them would be created if Congress actually passed legislation that would require states to draw power from renewables?

A new report from the RES Alliance, a group of renewable energy companies, finds that the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector “would more than double by 2025” if the United States puts in place a renewable electricity standard, often called an RES, that would mandate that states draw a certain percentage of power from renewable sources. A federal RES would create 274,000 additional jobs in the renewable electricity industry. But there’s a caveat — Congress would have to enact a 25 percent RES in order to create those jobs.

But even the House-passed climate and energy bill didn’t meet that goal. That bill requires 20 percent to come from renewables by 2020, but it would allow 5 percent of the requirement be met through efficiency measures rather than new renewable capacity. The House bill would also allows governors to petition for a weaker standard if they don’t believe their states can meet the target. It originally had a higher standard, but moderate Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee negotiated it down.

The Senate version currently in legislative purgatory sets the target even lower, requiring utilities to draw just 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources or energy-efficiency measures by 2021. Up to a quarter of that can be met through efficiency.

The RES Alliance argues that the bill’s targets should be raised to 12 percent in 2014, 20 percent in 2020, and 25 percent in 2025, purely from renewables like wind, solar, and biomass. Clean-power advocates note that more ambitious near-term goals are particularly vital to boosting the industry and creating new jobs. The lower figures under consideration in Congress won’t generate many new jobs beyond the trajectory the industry is already on without a federal standard, they argue. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia already have an RES in place.

The study, conducted by Navigant Consulting, finds that every state in the country would see some job growth with a higher RES in place. Some states might gain under 2,500 jobs, but some could gain up to 20,000. Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Tennessee, Texas, and Colorado are expected to see the biggest growth in new jobs. Fifty-two percent of those jobs would be in manufacturing, 23 percent in construction and trades, and 11 percent in engineering and professional technical services, meaning it could create both blue collar jobs and jobs for college graduates with technical skills.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest