A new report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) argues that renewable energy and energy efficiency create more jobs per unit of electricity than fossil fuels, especially during recession.
The report, Low carbon jobs: the evidence for net job creation from policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy, compiles research on the employment impacts of low carbon energy policies in the US, Europe and China, finding that low carbon technologies could boost both short-term and long-term employment.
According to the research, electricity from fossil fuels creates 0.1-0.2 gross jobs per GWh of energy generated, whereas solar creates 0.4-1.1 and energy efficiency creates 0.3-1.0. Wind is less labour-intensive, creating 0.05-0.5 gross jobs per GWh generated.
The average job creation across the three types of low carbon technologies is 0.35 gross jobs per GWh.
In total, the study estimates that ten jobs are created for every £1 million invested in low carbon energy and adds that low carbon jobs also tend to have a longer average lifetime compared to those from fossil fuels.
The more labour-intensive potential of low carbon energy implies that investing in a low carbon transition is particularly useful in the short-term to boost employment when the economy is underperforming.
However, the report notes labour intensity is not necessarily a desirable quality in the long-term, arguing that the economic and environmental efficiency of a low carbon transition should be the main metrics for informing long-term policy, not employment potential.
Dr Will Blyth, director of Oxford Energy Associates and leader of the research project, said: “Government-led investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency can offer short-term benefits, helping the economy to grow in times of recession by promoting employment.
“When the economy is starting to recover – such as now – the key challenge for government policy is to encourage an economically efficient transition towards the country’s strategic goals, such as climate change.”