Recently, a new research report, Sizing the Clean Economy: A Green Jobs Assessment, was released from the Brookings Institute that has put together an estimate of current jobs, by number, across multiple segments of the “clean” or low-carbon sectors of the U.S. economy. Within a category entitled “Energy and Resource Efficiency”, the authors have identified a total of 15,987 jobs that currently exist within the smart grid segment. Of this total, the research indicates that only about 7,000 of these positions have been created in the past seven years, which is one of the lowest totals within the nearly 40 total segments in the clean economy. An even more interesting point is that this segment is also one of the most educated and attracts some of the greatest number of candidates with higher educational qualifications.
Assuming these conclusions are valid or at least reasonably close (the job estimates are remarkably close to my own posted on June 3: Has Smart Grid Spending to Date Fostered Enough Job Creation?), then it brings up the question raised here over several weeks: where are the smart grid jobs being created with all the billions being expended in federal and utility industry spending? Have we over-estimated the stimulus impact from pumping nearly $4.3B into this sector of the energy industry? Or is it too early to measure these impacts?
As readers ponder these key questions, we should also point out that job creation in smart grid may also depend less on simply retraining existing workers, but rather on hiring of newly educated candidates with new skills. In a report just released by the GridWise Alliance, The US Smart Grid Revolution: Smart Grid Workforce Trends 2011, KEMA’s own research and analysis suggests further that smart grid positions will require higher-level and more diverse skills for sustainable electric energy industry positions. This emphasizes the criticality of creating new curriculum in higher educational facilities, in order to properly train new generations of engineers and other vital skill areas. The millennial generation, by virtue of its lifelong familiarity with communications technology and affinity for dynamic and creative work environments, will bring significant positive change to the electric energy industry and help the deployment and effectiveness of smart grid. Stay tuned for those new jobs, they will eventually come. What is your view?
By: Rob Wilhite