Friday, December 3, 2010

Project Social: Green Jobs

My Project Social partner Dave Ryan and I met this week to coordinate our next post.  Up to now, I’ve been focused on the corporate sustainability side of green technologies while Dave the HR Official has been thinking more in terms of job creation.

My kinda HR guy!

For his next post he plans to visit a recycling plant with his camera and film a short vlog about who works there and how it all works so stay tuned...

Anyway, as we got to talking about jobs in green tech I also started feeling excited as possibilities occurred to me.  Mind you, it’s not totally clear what kinds of jobs will be created by emerging green technologies and most of the manufacturing may be done offshore.

But think about it: 

With the emergence of any new technology or industry, you need planners, inventors, project managers, buyers, market researchers, sales people, facility managers, trainers, marketing professionals, consultants, installers, accountants, legal experts, resellers, technicians, billing clerks, business software designers, hotline personnel and a whole cast of other supporting talent.

For energy generation in particular you also need construction workers, plant managers and personnel, cable layers and engineers to assemble all those off shore manufactured pieces into power plants that actually feed electricity into the US power grid.

Plus all the people involved with leasing and developing land, including bankers, lawyers, landowners, notaries and bureaucrats.   And training programs focusing on green tech and people to write books on all these new topics.

And let us not forget HR folks to administer all these people…

Even if you don’t believe in the environmental importance of sustainability – which I won’t comment on – believe in the jobs.

So, where are all these jobs?

Some of them are there now, although not enough to feed the US demand for jobs or even green jobs in particular.  For example, although only about 3% of total US energy is produced from renewable sources, wind energy already employs approximately 85,000 people today.

And unlike oil – the US uses 25% of the world’s oil but only has 3% of the world’s oil reserves - it’s our wind.

Other jobs have yet to be created because the US has been slow to recognize this opportunity while other countries like Germany have been moving ahead with alternative energy development. 

The good news:

Although the US is still clinging to the previous century when it comes to energy production there’s lots of promising stuff going on.  Energy's expensive, after all, which encourages business leaders to take an interest in sustainable energy with a view to minimizing costs.
One way companies and private individuals can invest in a sustainable future is by purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset the energy they consume from non-renewable sources. RECs subsidize renewable energy providers and help them get a foothold in the energy market. 

It's not a perfect system - it's a bit like saying Hail Mary's and capacity is still limited - but RECs help renewable energy providers expand their operations and provide cheap, clean, sustainable energy.

If anyone has questions or would like to discuss setting up a corporate sustainability program at your own company, feel free to reach out to Dave or myself.

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