Study: Federal RES would create thousands of jobs

By Lisa Gibson
Posted February 4, 2010, at 10:19 a.m. CST

A federal renewable electricity standard (RES) of 25 percent by 2025 would create about 274,000 more renewable energy jobs and a cumulative 2.36 million job years of work by 2025 compared with no national policy, according to a recently released study commissioned by RES-Alliance for Jobs.

A federal RES would impact biomass, solar, hydro and wind power. "As tax credits expire, some of these industries will see job loss," said Jay V. Paidipati, managing consultant for energy for Navigant Consulting Inc., which conducted the study. Therefore, a stable policy that looks at the long-term as well as the current is necessary.

The study concluded that a 25 percent RES would double the size of the biomass industry alone, creating about 60,000 jobs in a country suffering from an unemployment rate that hovers around 10 percent. Most of that plant and job creation would happen in the southeast because of resource availability including waste wood. "We think the southeast is undoubtedly and unequivocally the future of biomass power," Bob Cleaves, CEO of the Biomass Power Association said during the Feb. 4 press conference.

When the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act was passed in 1978, the biomass industry grew significantly, he said. "Overnight, our industry was born and 100 power plants were built." He added that it can happen again and will with a federal RES. "Biomass is really a job creator and it's a job creator in the southeast," he said, adding that the BPA is supportive of a meaningful long-term RES.

"Our plants last about 50 years and we really need a long-term policy to support that," said Mark Pytosh, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Covanta Energy, a waste-to-energy company. Covanta operates about 45 waste-to-energy plants worldwide and Pytosh said a long-term policy to support the capital-intensive industry and provide infrastructure is crucial. A 25 percent RES would require a $25 billion investment in waste-to-energy, but would mean the construction of about 60 new facilities and would double the industry, according to Pytosh. "We're very excited and supportive of a long-term RES policy," he said, adding that he hopes it comes through this year.

Stakeholders in the wind, hydro and solar industries participated in the conference, as well, all agreeing that a meaningful RES is beneficial and important. "America owned this industry 20 years ago," said Don Furman, senior vice president of development, transmission and policy for wind energy company Iberdrola Renewables. "We invented this industry and now we're giving it away because we haven't had a national policy to support it." Furman said China has pulled ahead in the wind energy industry and also mentioned the benefits of PURPA, which seem to have dwindled. "It simply sets the goal and allows the market to work," he said of an RES.

The study can be found at