A new report from the European Union shows that renewable energy could employ up to 2.8 million people by 2020, while supplying 20% of Europe’s energy needs.
"Benefits of renewables in terms of security of supply and fighting climate change can go hand in hand with economic benefits," said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in a statement.
While the study found that some jobs will be lost from other sectors as the economy shifts away from fossil fuels, the authors project there will be a net increase in employment of 410,000 jobs in the next eleven years.
This reports seems to be aimed at addressing concerns among member states that the EU green energy plan and their cap and trade system will kill jobs and harm the economy.
Rather than shrinking economic output, the EU authors found the shift to renewables would result in a modest net increase in European GDP of 0.24%.
Renewables in the EU is already big business. The most recent data from 2005 shows that the sector already employs 1.4 million people and is worth $84 billion USD annually.
Collectively the EU has installed wind capacity of 65 GW, which is already supplying 4% of European electricity demand. Last year, 36% of all new generating capacity was wind turbines, - more than twice the figure for oil, coal and hydro combined. Wind capacity was also up 17% in 2008 over the previous year.
Last year Spain and Germany alone installed 4 GW of Solar PV - more than 70% of the world market. Industry groups estimate that annual European solar PV sales could reach 11 GW by 2013 - an increase of 150% over 2009. Collectively, Europe has over 80% of the global solar PV market.
In order to reach the job and economic figures projected for the EU, the study recommends market incentives over and above the business and usual scenario.
Assuming these market supports are forthcoming, they project that by 2030, Europe could supply 30% of their energy needs from renewables. This would also add $13.6 billion USD and 113,000 jobs.
The authors made a number of assumptions in their report, including an oil price of $100 per barrel in 2020 and CO2 pricing under the EU Emission Trading System of $49 per tonne.
This is the most thorough analysis on employment I've seen in many years," said Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association. "I think it will have a large impact."
Another benefit will be cheaper projected energy prices than continued reliance on conventional power sources.
"It…shows electricity prices will be around 7 percent lower if we go for the 2020 target scenario, compared to business as usual -- something we have been trying to say for some time," Kjaer said.
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