Stronger National Renewable Electricity Standard Needed for Significant Clean Energy Job Stability

CEOs representing America’s renewable energy industries announced a major new study showing that a 25% by 2025 national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) would support hundreds of thousands of new American jobs and prevent a near-term collapse in some industries. Job growth in the wind energy, solar, biomass, waste-to-energy and hydropower industries would particularly benefit the Southeastern U.S. and manufacturing states whose Senators have questioned the viability of renewable electricity.

The “Job Impacts of a National Renewable Electricity Standard” study, conducted by independent firm Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: NCI) and released by the RES Alliance for Jobs, found that a 25% by 2025 national RES would support an additional 274,000 renewable energy jobs – the equivalent of a cumulative 2.36 million job-years of work – over a no-national policy option. This total is also significantly higher than the expected jobs supported in the current House and Senate provisions under consideration in Congress.

In addition, the study found that without stronger near-term targets than currently envisioned, industries like wind will experience flat job growth and long-term stagnation, while the U.S. biomass industry could collapse altogether. The RES Alliance recommends raising near-term RES targets in federal legislation to 12% in 2014 and 20% in 2020. The study is available at

“This new analysis proves what advocates of a national renewable energy policy have long been saying,” said Don Furman, Senior Vice President for Development, Transmission, and Policy at wind energy company Iberdrola Renewables. “A strong Renewable Electricity Standard is crucial to create a stable investment environment and grow this highly promising sector. Without a strong RES, the US wind industry will see no net job growth, and will likely lose jobs to overseas competitors. A target like 25 percent by 2025 would allow American wind companies to support double the amount of jobs than without a policy – about 125,000 additional jobs. That’s a gain our country cannot afford to pass up.”

States that stand to gain the most from a strong RES, according to the RES Alliance / Navigant Consulting study, include:

* Southeastern states like Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee Georgia and Florida that can benefit from substantial biomass and municipal solid waste-to-energy;
* Traditional manufacturing states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, which will gain from growth in a wide range of technologies;
* Midwestern states like North and South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois, home to major wind resources;
* Western states like Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and California, where solar, wind and hydropower have significant growth potential;
* States that do not currently have renewables standards or targets like Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama; and
* States that would lose renewable electricity jobs unless a national policy is passed, like Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Delaware, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

The study emphasizes that while tax credits continue to play a critically important role in preserving the viability of existing facilities, an RES is needed in order to support both near- and long-term investments.

“A strong RES will complement tax benefits and ensure both the preservation and creation of jobs throughout rural America,” explained Robert Cleaves, CEO of the Biomass Power Association. “Currently, tax credits for the biomass industry remain a critically important element for a renewable technology that now supplies half of the nation’s renewable energy.”

The benefits of an RES for Southern states are significant, given skepticism among many Southern Senators about the benefits of a national energy policy for their states.

Mark Pytosh, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Covanta Energy, a leading waste-to-energy company, noted, “An RES would create the right market environment for significant growth in waste-to-energy technology. A strong national standard would result in substantial job growth in the industry, and that means good-paying, stable jobs in communities that need them.”

“The report analysis clearly shows that an RES of 25 percent by 2025 results in significantly expanded job opportunities in renewable energy,” said Lisa Frantzis, Managing Director for Renewable and Distributed Energy at Navigant Consulting, which conducted the study. “Each renewable technology will support jobs in different regions across the country, with the bottom line being a marked increase in job opportunities nationwide.”

The RES Alliance / Navigant Consulting study is the first to examine the job impacts in these five industries across states in both the near- and long-term. Its findings come as lawmakers and advocates note the rapid expansion of competing cleantech industries in China and the European Union.

“The need for meaningful Congressional action is urgent,” said Dr. Charles Gay, President of Applied Solar at Applied Materials. “The U.S. is in a highly competitive international contest to lead scaling and adoption of the technologies which will assure our clean energy future. Other countries are racing ahead on renewable energy and many have caught up and passed by our domestic industry. Congress needs to raise the RES targets and pass legislation this year.”

In June 2009, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy Security Act (Waxman-Markey), which would set a national RES of 20% by 2020 and allow up to 8% of the standard to be met through energy efficiency improvements. Also in June, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the American Clean Energy Leadership Act with a target of 15% by 2021 and allow up to 4% of the standard to be met through energy efficiency improvements.

“Hydropower is America’s oldest and most reliable renewable energy resource, and we are eager to bring its job-creation and clean-energy benefits to all parts of the country today,” said Rick Miller, former President of the National Hydropower Association and Senior Vice President of Renewable Energy Services for HDR|DTA. Summarizing the report and echoing the views of the CEOs, Miler added, “Strong national policy will spur the creation of hundreds of thousands of clean-energy jobs and strengthen our global competitiveness. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to recognize the opportunities for using renewable energy as an economic catalyst and enact a strong RES that will bring these benefits to all Americans now.”

RES Alliance Members Include: AES Wind Generation, American Wind Energy Association, Applied Materials, Biomass Power Association, Bluewater Wind, BP Wind, Covanta, E.ON Climate & Renewables, enXco, Gamesa Technology Corporation, General Electric, Horizon Wind Energy, Iberdrola Renewables, Invenergy, Large-scale Solar Association, Mesa Power, National Hydropower Association, NextEra Energy Resources, Pattern Energy Group, Renewable Energy Systems Americas, REpower USA, Ridgeline Wind Power, Solar Energy Industries Association, Vestas, and Wind Capital Group. 

Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: NCI) is a specialized independent consulting firm providing dispute, financial, regulatory and operational advisory services to government agencies, legal counsel and large companies facing the challenges of uncertainty, risk, distress and significant change. The Company focuses on industries undergoing substantial regulatory or structural change including healthcare, energy and financial and insurance services, and on the issues driving these transformations. “Navigant” is a service mark of Navigant International, Inc. Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NCI) is not affiliated, associated, or in any way connected with Navigant International, Inc. and NCI’s use of “Navigant” is made under license from Navigant International, Inc.