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Correcting the Math on Renewables and Jobs

22 Jun 2012  |   Allison Donnelly

Tags: Clean Energy

Yesterday several news sources incorrectly reported that stimulus dollars for the renewable energy sector had created under 1,000 jobs. stated that only 910 “direct” jobs had been created for the $9 billion in stimulus, “meaning that it cost about $9.8 million to establish each of those long-term jobs.” Meanwhile, the Washington Free Beacon ran a headline declaring, “Obama Administration Program Spent $10B to Create 355 Jobs Per Year.” They cited a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report used in a witness testimony by Congressional Research Service analyst Molly Sherlock earlier this week.

The problem is that both of these articles used cherry-picked data from the NREL report. In reality, the $9 billion in stimulus has supported up to 75,000 jobs in just the two years. According to the NREL report, 23,000 projects received funding, adding 13.5 gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid (enough to power 3.4 million homes). So where did these two news sources get their jobs numbers from?

When reporting the numbers, they didn’t include any construction jobs. Check out this table from Molly Sherlock’s witness testimony to Congress:

You can see that their numbers – 910 and 355, respectively – only include direct jobs (jobs created by physically building the project, not including jobs created by various pieces of the supply chain or administrative ones like banking) for operation of the projects only. To borrow an analogy from a renewable energy expert, it’s like saying the only job created from building a house is the owner who has to clean it. Clearly, it’s a distorted view of what represents success for the renewable energy sector, which is one of the fastest growing industries in the US and a proven job-creator. 


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