David Feldman

Myths of Energy – Renewable Energy Is The New Job Creator

Blog Post created by David Feldman Champion on Aug 4, 2017

Today, I want to look into the idea that renewable energy is the new leader in producing jobs and fossil fuel jobs are decreasing or no longer needed.  This thought is generally held by those in the renewable sectors and those pushing for the move to green energy, and it picked up a lot of momentum with the recent report that was published by the U.S. Department of Energy that purportedly shows more people are working in the solar industry than in fossil-fuel power generation.  Certain groups use this as evidence in their argument that we don’t need jobs in the fossil-fuels industry because solar and wind have become “engines for green and sustainable jobs.”


Let’s step back and look a little closer at the facts…


According to the report, 374,000 people are employed by the solar-generation industry, approximately 102,000 are employed by wind, and only 187,000 people are employed in fossil fuels. (This would include generating electricity from oil, coal, and natural gas)


At first glance, it looks as if solar, and to a lesser extent wind, are the real job creators and fossil fuels are old news – put out to pasture, just waiting for the inevitable end.  Well, that’s actually not the case.


While it’s true that in 2016 approximately 374,000 people worked in the solar-energy industry, there’s a very important fact that the DOE report leaves out.  That number isn’t just full-time jobs. It includes part-time.  Further research reveals that only about 260,000 spend at least half their time working in the solar industry.


Historically, economists compare competing industries by comparing how many full-time equivalent jobs exist or are being created.  For some reason…  the DOE decided to break tradition and publish full-time and part-time numbers as a combined number.  I’ll let you decide why you think they would have done that…


Another interesting piece of information the DOE report includes in their numbers and calculations (but fails to overtly mention) is that a large portion of the ~ 475,000 solar and wind jobs are construction jobs.  36.7 percent of jobs in the solar industry in 2016 and 37.2 percent of jobs in the wind industry to be exact. 


These are two very interesting facts that give a whole new perspective on the conclusions that can be drawn from this report…  


But here’s my conclusion.  Yes, there are many jobs being created by renewable energy and that can’t be denied.  But to say fossil fuel jobs are lagging and roughly half of renewable jobs is not true.  If anything, the report prompts more questions about why so many solar jobs are part-time and temporary.  What are your thoughts on the matter?