EESI: Jobs in renewable fuels, biomass energy up in 2018

By Erin Voegele | July 26, 2019

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute released a fact sheet on jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and resilience July 23 that shows U.S. jobs in renewable fuels and biomass power both increased from 2017 to 2018.

The EESI is an independent, bipartisan non-profit organization formed by members of Congress in 1984 that promotes sustainable societies. The group’s primary goal is to accelerate the transition to a new, low-emissions economy based on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The fact sheet released by EESI on July 23 focuses on employment in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors in the U.S. and around the world. It cites the 2019 U.S. Energy Employment Report as finding 611,000 people worked in zero-emission technology industries, including renewables and nuclear in the U.S. The fact sheet also cites recent International Renewable Energy Agency data that found the U.S. had 855,000 direct and indirect renewable energy jobs in 2018.

According to the EESI’s fact sheet, renewable fuels, which includes corn ethanol, biodiesel, woody biomass and other biofuels, accounted for 106,709 direct jobs in the U.S. as of the second quarter of 2018, up 2.2 percent from 2017. The data, sourced from the USEER, found corn ethanol directly provided 35,055 jobs, with other ethanol subsectors providing 20,074 jobs. The fact sheet also cites data from other sources, including Agricultural and Biofuels Consulting LLP, which estimates overall direct ethanol jobs at 71,367, and calculated the total direct, indirect and induced job count at 366,000 jobs in 2018. In contrast, IRENA estimated 238,000 employees were directly or indirectly employed in corn ethanol.

The fact sheet notes the USEER includes biodiesel in its “other ethanol’s” category, which represents 20,074 jobs. IRENA, however, has estimated the U.S. biodiesel sector expended to 72,300 jobs last year, while the National Biodiesel Board found that domestic biodiesel production supports more than 60,000 jobs nationwide.

EESI cites USEER data that shows the woody biomass fuels industry provided 33,166 jobs last year, an increase of 1,738 since 2017.

USEER also has a category for other biofuels industries, which includes advanced biofuels. That category employed an estimated 18,414 people last year, a figure that was stable between 2017 and 2018.

The fact sheet estimates 12,976 direct jobs in biomass electricity production last year, up 4.8 percent from 2017. That data was sourced from the USEER. The fact sheet notes there are an additional 29,245 jobs in combined-heat-and-power (CHP), for which the fuels are biomass and natural gas. The fact sheet also cites IRENA as reporting solid biomass energy productions supports approximately 79,700 jobs in the U.S. The category of solid biomass excludes traditional biomass, such as wood, charcoal, agricultural residues or animal dung used for residential cooking and heating, particularly in developing countries.

For waste-to-energy, the fact sheet cites an Energy Recovery Council report that suggest that the sector directly supports approximately 7,000 jobs. That number includes workers who are employed on-site and off-site by owners, operators, and local governments involved in the industry.

The fact sheet also cites data from the American Biogas Council that found more than 2,200 biogas systems are currently in operation in the U.S. According to the ABC, more than 14,000 additional dairy/swine farms, wastewater treatment plants and landfill gas projects could effectively be converted into biogas production facilities. The ABC concluded that those new systems could support roughly 335,000 temporary construction jobs and 23,000 full-time operational positions.

Globally, the fact sheet estimates that biofuel is responsible for 832,000 direct and indirect jobs in Brazil, 311,000 direct and indirect jobs in the U.S., 208,000 direct and indirect jobs in the EU, 51,000 direct and indirect jobs in China, and 35,000 direct and indirect jobs in India.

 Solid biomass is estimated to support 387,000 direct and indirect jobs in the EU, 186,000 direct and indirect jobs in China, 79,000 direct and indirect jobs in the U.S., and 58,000 direct and indirect jobs in India.

Biogas is estimated to support 145,000 direct and indirect jobs in China, 85,000 direct and indirect jobs in India, 67,000 direct and indirect jobs in the EU, and 7,000 direct and indirect jobs in the U.S.

A full copy of the fact sheet is available on the EESI website