It feels like 2009. Are we really still having the debate about whether green energy creates jobs? The latest stats are in the trend is still clear: solar energy employment is outpacing coal in the US. The UK became Europe’s largest solar panel installation market in 2015.
The debate, however, is still popping up. Rather than focus on the same rehashed statistics, I’d like to spend some time talking about the more unexpected ways that related industries and job markets benefit from renewable energy, and from the cultural shift towards corporate energy responsibility.
The rippling effect that renewable energy has on entire economies is often not taken into account when we talk about employment and job creation. Good energy policy is good for a number of related markets.
Solar Panels and Energy Efficient Glass
In North America and Europe, the glass industry is already quite mature. It’s established and ready to take on additional demand. Prospects weren’t so positive back in 2010, but these days employment is up in the glass industry.
Part of this rise could be attributed to new demand for solar and glass technology, green replacements for existing glass and new construction. CMS North America notes that demand for photovoltaic technology is driving growth in glass manufacturing. Solar panels, like other sources of power, have a large supply chain behind them and require a number of supplementary industries, such as specialized glass transport.
Wind Farms, Regulation, and Acoustic Engineers
In the case of wind energy, regulation and public health concerns are actually creating jobs after the turbines have been constructed. Wind turbines are governed by regulations that limit the amount of noise they can produce, especially when close to inhabited areas. Acoustic engineers, employed by engineering consultant companies are required to visit job sites and take measurements to ensure that the turbines meet regulatory standards.
In addition to manufacturing and labour jobs, renewable energy creates a lasting demand for college-educated professionals.
Marketing and Other Creative Professions
This may seem like a more tangentially related notion, but a cultural shift toward green energy, sustainability, and corporate responsibility is also driving a need for knowledgeable sustainability professionals. Responding to consumer concerns, brands are embracing green energy in trust-building and profit-building ventures.
Along with marketing a message of sustainability to consumers, large and small organizations are intaking creative and management positions to guide the ship toward those consumer expectations. This results in unexpected career opportunities in sustainability, even in industries that seem only tangentially related (or completely unrelated) to green energy.
Solar Home Installation
As solar power becomes cheaper and more widely available, companies are popping up that install solar panels on the roofs of residential properties. This opens up more positions in marketing and public relations as they seek to educate consumers about how solar works, not to mention the management, HR, technician, driver, customer service, and other jobs that running a company requires. All this employment just around solar panel installation!
So, combining these more difficult-to-quantify effects with the statistics we CAN look to — which say, by the way, that renewable energy is a booming job market … Maybe we can put this debate to rest?
About the Author
Ben Steele is a writer, theater professional and nonprofit administrator who was born in England, grew up in Canada, and recently settled in the U.S.