As the nation moves towards a green economy, jobs in the clean energy sector will continue to rise. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has had wide-reaching effects in the clean energy industry. A new supplemental report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) looks specifically at ARRA funding that has gone to clean energy projects.

Of the $787 billion set aside as Recovery Act funds, $90 billion is dedicated to clean energy programs. As of the end of Q1 2010, $40 billion has been obligated to specific projects and more than $9 billion has already paid out. The three sectors that have received the majority portion of that $9 billion include renewable generation projects, traditional transit and high-speed rail programs, and energy efficiency efforts.

Other sectors receiving clean energy funding through the Recovery Act include grid modernization, advanced vehicles and fuels technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, green innovation and job training, and clean energy equipment manufacturing.

By funding these projects, more than 80,000 jobs have been created in the clean energy sector as of Q1 2010. In addition to the direct employment benefits of Recovery Act funding, the CEA estimates that an additional 20,000 jobs were created in related industries. Overall, the ARRA is expected to create 720,000 job-years through 2012 in the clean energy sector alone. A job year is one worker employed for one year.

The supplement report breaks down these job years by category:

  • Energy efficiency – 179,000 job-years through 2012
  • Renewable generation – 192,900 job-years
  • Grid modernization – 80,600 job-years
  • Advanced vehicles and fuel technologies – 37,000 job-years
  • Traditional transit and high-speed rail – 158,200 job-years
  • Carbon capture and sequestration – 26,500 job-years
  • Green innovation and job training – 32,200 job-years
  • Clean energy equipment manufacturing – 9,500 job-years
  • Other – 3,700 job-years
The CEA does put an important disclaimer in its supplemental report:
“Of course, these figures are only estimates. The margin of error for estimates for specific programs from the CEA model is relatively large, and the number of clean energy jobs — either in 2010:Q1 or over the life of the Act — could be somewhat smaller or larger than is indicated here. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Act is creating tens of thousands of jobs for people who will help our economy transform to its clean energy future.” Source: The ARRA and the Clean Energy Transformation (PDF)

So the ARRA is creating hundreds of thousands of job hours in the clean energy sector and putting Americans to work building the green economy of the future. Green jobs naysayers will make this all about the numbers — “$90 billion to create tens of thousands of jobs that pay between $30,000 and $50,000 a year just doesn’t add up.”

Of course it doesn’t add up from a purely mathematical standpoint, but the benefits of this $90 billion in clean energy investment will go well beyond the annual salary of the Americans who are working in the industry. If this move to a clean energy economy is successful, the benefits of this series of investments will be felt for generations. For me, that is priceless.

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