Green jobs are a hot topic. Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency by promising to create five million green collar jobs. Green jobs protect and restore ecosystems, reduce energy consumption, minimize or eliminate waste and pollution and can be in agriculture, manufacturing, research and development, administration and service activities.
By: Jordana Levine
The first of its kind in North America, the Drake Landing Solar Community (DLSC) is heating its homes with solar energy and reducing five tonnes of greenhouse gases per year in every house. The community, located in Okotoks, Alberta, has 52 homes heated by seasonal thermal energy storage; the solar heat is stored underground in the summer and used in the homes during the winter.
The project, which was first created by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), began collecting solar energy in June of 2007 and, after five years, the community is expected to receive 90 percent of its heat from solar alone. The need for non-renewable fossil fuels will diminish and shift to a cleaner and more sustainable unlimited source of energy: the sun.
The DLSC project leader, Doug MeClenahan, says that there are almost no other projects like this one anywhere in the world. “You could probably count them on two hands.”
The community’s space and water heating comes from solar energy, which is collected by 800 panels arranged on garage roofs around the community. Each panel generates about 1.5 MW of thermal power on a summer’s day. There is a combination of seasonal and short-term thermal storage (STTS), with boreholes in the ground to store the seasonal energy.
When heat is transferred to the homes, there is an automatic valve in the basement of every house that shuts off the heat transfer when the temperature of the thermostat in the home is reached. If the STTS doesn’t have enough heat to distribute to all the homes, there is a back-up gas boiler Energy Centre that will turn on to help out.
Energy in a community the size of the DLSC costs 14 to 17 cents per kWh. “Fifty-two homes was a reasonable size, but it was still considered to small… to be cost effective today,” says McClenahan. He explains that the next step is an analysis of a larger-scale project using a computer simulation. The analysis should be completed within a year.
“If you go to larger scale, you have much less surface area for heat loss… so the efficiency can go up considerably,” McClenahan explains. “The bigger the project, the less cost it is per unit volume or per unit area.” Drake Landing isn’t that effective now because it’s losing heat on the surface area of the land.
Still, McClenahan says, I know [the technology]’s promising enough that we should pursue it until we are able to do the analysis.” However, beyond that, he says it’s incredibly difficult to tell exactly what the costs and savings could be in a larger community. “Until we do the analysis, I’d hate to guess.”
The community does more for the environment than just conserve energy, though. Homes are designed with low-impact landscaping and use locally manufactured materials. The materials used include upgraded insulation, certified sustainable lumber, drywall made from recycled materials, and well-insulated windows, among other environmentally friendly products.
Also, the homes are all required to follow The Town of Okotoks’ water stewardship measures: low flush toilets, ultra low flow showerheads and faucets, and insulated water lines. Larger homes require a recirculation pump and every home is supplied with a low water consumption dishwasher and clothes washer. A rain barrel supplies water for gardening.
By the end of the community’s second year, McClenahan says it’s already receiving 67 percent of its space heating from the sun. “We’re hoping that this will continue to increase” to over 90 percent.
“I would like to see, in the next 2 to 3 years, a [larger] follow-up project,” says McClenahan, hopefully with bigger cities in Canada like Toronto and Montreal. “We don’t want to end up with just one demonstration and that’s it.”
By: Jordana Levine
The Green Energy Act (GEA) could employ over 90,000 Ontarians in green jobs. The government of Ontario is prepared to initiate the GEA, which focuses on the possibilities for employment if a large investment is made in green practices. Along with increasing employment opportunities, the program could have a huge positive impact on the environment.
The main goals of the GEA are to ensure that Ontario is the country’s leading green economy, create over 50,000 green collar jobs, and generate billions of dollars worth of economic activity as quickly as possible – ideally in three years. The plan involves phasing out the province’s coal plants by 2014 and shifting the province’s economy so that it is based on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
Building the Green Economy: Employment Effects of Green Energy Investments for Ontario is a report done by the Political Economy Research Institute, which gives recommendations and ideas regarding the GEA. The report identifies two levels of investment that would help the GEA. The first program is the baseline Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP), which would invest $18.6 billion over the next ten years in: conservation and demand management, hydroelectric power, on-shore wind energy, bioenergy, waste energy recycling and solar power.
However, the report also looks at an enhanced green investment program, which is referred to as the Green Energy Act Alliance (GEAA) plan. The GEAA plan would involve spending $47.1 billion over ten years and would do everything the baseline IPSP would do, plus it would invest in off-shore wind energy and a smart grid electrical transmission system for Ontario.
Although the baseline IPSP would generate 35,000 jobs, the expanded GEAA program would create 90,000 jobs for Ontarians. The occupations created would range from construction workers to financial auditors and engineers to research scientists. For the most part, wages would exceed $20 per hour.
Three types of employment effects would come out of these programs: direct, indirect and induced effects. The direct effects would be the jobs created within Ontario by the environmentally related activities, such as conservation, hydroelectricity and solar power. The indirect effects involve jobs associated with these green industries that provide goods and services for the green investment activities, like hardware and metals. Induced effects would be the employment that is created when the people who are paid via green investment projects spend the money they earn on other products and services within the province.
The baseline IPSP would lead to 15,500 direct jobs, 11,600 indirect, and 8,100 induced, while the expanded GEAA program would create 38,400 direct, 31,100 indirect and 20,900 induced jobs.
The IPSP would create nearly 12,000 MW of new electricity or conservation capacity; the expanded GEAA program would produce over 22,000, though. In March 2009, the Ontario Power Authority operated with about 27,000 MW of electricity-generating capacity. This means that the $47.1 billion investment program could either replace or expand capacity by 82 percent in the province (and the IPSP by 44 percent), leading to higher efficiency and a huge increase in renewable energy levels.
By: Jordana Levine.
If renewable energy production in the US was increased 20% by 2020, 185,000 new jobs would be created in renewable energy development. Consumers would also save $10.5 billion on electricity and gas bills and farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners would have $25.6 billion added to their total income.
The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory in Berkeley discovered that renewable energy not only creates more jobs per megawatt of power installed, but also more jobs per unit of energy produced and per dollar invested compared to the fossil fuel energy sector.
In the European Union, net employment growth in the EU is projected to increase to 950,000 with current policies, and up to 1,666,000 jobs by 2010 under the Advanced Renewable Strategy (ARS) that has been implemented. Renewable energy would also make up 22.1% of the EU’s total energy by 2010
The Environmental Energy Study Institute has a fact sheet discussing jobs from renewable energy and energy efficiency both within the US and around the world. It lists the improvements in energy resources, including the increase in wind, geothermal, solar and tidal energy and well as biofuels and clean-coal plants. The fact sheet shows the immense number of jobs that these industries add to the economy.
The full fact sheet can be downloaded at the EESI website
By: Jordana Levine
If the issues of climate change are not addressed, it could cost every person on earth $1000 a year, or $7 trillion worldwide, says Nicholas Stern, former World Bank chief economist. In the report, Climate Change and Green Jobs: Labour’s Challenges and Opportunities, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) stresses that taking action will cost a lot less than doing nothing.
If the federal government invested $30 billion over ten years to transition to an economy that is consciously aware of climate change, 330,000 jobs would be created and Canada’s GDP would increase by $140 billion. There would be $95 billion added to personal income and $28 billion in energy savings.
Just under half of Canada’s CO2 emissions come from heavy industry, mainly using coal, gas and oil. The report gives the example of the tarsands, which the CLC says are the single most destructive project anywhere in the world, consuming one gallon of oil for every two gallons it produces. The tarsands have already made a hole the size of Vancouver Island, and it is predicted to grow by 400-500% in the next ten years if no changes are made, which would make the area the size of Florida. The CLC urges Canada to stop racing to provide the US with oil and focus on slowing down the use of non-renewable energy in its own country.
The CLC believes that good jobs and a strong economy will only happen if we take into account every area that contributes to a high-quality life, including the economy, jobs, equality an the environment. Both the global economy and the environment will be in major trouble if temperatures rise more than two degrees Celsius, leading to destruction of ecosystems, hugely diminished biodiversity, dangerously high sea levels and extreme weather.
The CLC especially supports four major areas:
• Promoting energy efficiency
• Investing in rail and mass transit infrastructure
• Creating proper fuel efficiency standards
• Developing renewable energy sources
The report stresses the importance of ensuring that policies, such as carbon taxes, do not increase inequality between classes. The biggest polluters should be paying the most and household carbon taxes should only be imposed if 100% of the revenue goes towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A Just Transition Fund is a vital aspect that would compensate communities and individuals for wage cuts, displacement and job losses; it would fund the retraining of these workers and encourage them to work in a greener economy without diminishing the quality of life or contributing to inequality.
By: Jordana Levine
In 2006, there were 8.5 million Americans working in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RE & EE) industries. By 2030, the country could potentially have up to 40 million green collar jobs. That’s one in four Americans bringing in a total of $4.5 trillion in revenue for the US instead of the $970 billion in 2006.
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Economic Drivers for the 21st Century, released by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), discusses the importance of making RE&EE jobs available. The report describes different types of jobs in the industry and the plethora of positions that could be available in the next couple of decades.
Roger Bezdek, the principal investigator of the study, stresses the importance of investing in RE&EE industries before other countries take the lead and reap economic and environmental benefits before the US gets the chance. If little action is taken, there will be almost no increase in jobs and revenue, but if the US “pushes the envelope,” it could lead to a 30% increase in the amount of RE available and EE products b 2030.
The predictions include both direct and indirect jobs. Direct jobs involve people working for a solar company, say building solar panels. An indirect job would involve someone working for a company that sells silicon to the solar company.
The report also examines job levels in:
* Federal, state, local, non-governmental organizations and foundations.
* Manufacturers of energy efficiency (EE) products.
* Renewable Energy (RE) technologies include hydroelectricity, biomass, geothermal, wind, photovoltaic and solar thermal energy. In 2006, renewable energy made up only 6% of US energy.
The report uses Ohio as a case study. Over 10 years, overall US employment has increased more than five times as fast as Ohio’s. However, a significant boost in RE&EE employment could increase the state’s number of jobs by over 1.7 million and revenues by over $220 billion.
All jobs in a renewable energy company, may not seem ‘green’ — for instance the majority of jobs created by the RE&EE industry are ‘standard’ jobs, such as accountants, clerks, secretaries, cashiers, factory workers and truck drivers. In fact, the report explains that there are many more ‘standard’ jobs that will be created compared to ones you would naturally think are ‘green’ such as those for biochemists, environmental engineers, conservation workers and other environmentally specialized positions. ‘Standard’ jobs created in green industries are counted as ‘green’ jobs in the report.