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Tennessee Green Job Growth Possible

Legislation, Green News / Practices

The Tennessee Department of Labor reports the state is at the forefront of investment in key areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

UC Daily News (Tenn.) | February 9, 2009


According to a report released last week by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee is at the forefront of investment in key areas of renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) technology, including alternative fuels, energy conservation, solar photovoltaic and electric and hybrid vehicles. Investment in energy technology is viewed as a key to the state’s economic development and job creation.

In March 2008, Governor Phil Bredesen signed an Executive Order establishing the Governor’s Task Force on Energy Policy. The Task Force is to develop a state energy plan by December 2008 addressing broad ranging energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. State government will lead by example in conserving energy.

Important milestones in moving toward an energy policy have included (May 2008) adopting minimum energy conservation standards in the new state Energy Code for Residential Building, which can be used by builders on a voluntary basis; ( April 2008) mandatory policies for energy efficiency in state buildings; (January 2008) the Comptroller’s report “State Government Energy Conservation Efforts;” and in the spring of 2007, the Biofuels Initiative.

One of the report's most important bottom lines, at least to those searching for Tennessee employment, is certainly the potential for job creation that tracks with green development.  Several occupations were identified as being in shortage or potential shortage if the plan is executed including industrial and environmental engineers, machinists, electricians, welders and brick masons.
Green jobs have been defined as family-supporting jobs that contribute significantly to preserving or enhancing environmental quality. They reside primarily in sectors that compose the clean energy economy– efficiency, renewables, alternative transportation and fuels.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Areas of most promise for alternative energy resources in Tennessee include biomass, geothermal heat pumps, hydropower, solar photovoltaic, wind and energy efficiency.
  • A 2004 study found that every 1000 MW of developed wind power created the potential for 3,000 jobs in manufacturing, 700 jobs in installation and 600 in operations and maintenance.
  • Part of Tennessee’s loss of manufacturing jobs in the 1990’s and early 2000’s could be replaced by jobs in renewable energy, particularly in the manufacture of wind and solar components.
  • In the U.S., the total number of direct and indirect jobs in energy efficiency is nearly 18 times greater than the number in renewable energy. Employment growth in RE jobs is expected to be much faster than in EE jobs.
  • TVA’s renewables supply (other than hydro) is nearly 50 MW, with half of that in wind energy.
  • Early estimates were that with an accelerated investment effort Tennessee could gain 4,233 full time jobs in wind and nearly 400 in solar by 2015.
  • With commercial implementation of biofuels, in several years, an estimated 4,000 jobs could be created in rural Tennessee counties, with a potential for 3,000 additional jobs in satellite plants.
  • Creating energy efficient buildings is considered the most cost-effective way to reduce our energy consumption in the U.S. Buildings account for 40 percent of U.S. energy use and produce 43 percent of carbon emissions.
  • Tennessee’s universities are essential partners in identifying new pathways to transform the state’s energy use. For example, Tennessee Technological University’s Industrial Assessment Center has identified industrial energy reductions of from 3 percent to 40 percent.
  • Home construction is being transformed by energy-saving technology. It is possible to build homes today in Tennessee that can save 60 percent to 70 percent on energy, using advanced technology such as heat pump water heaters; alternative technologies for roofing, utility walls, ventilation, exterior walls and the basement; and through use of the renewable technologies of solar panels and geothermal.
  • Tennessee is at the forefront of research in reducing residential and commercial energy consumption. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is participating in a U.S. Department of Energy initiative to develop affordable, net-zero-energy housing by 2020 and zero-energy commercial buildings by 2025. 
  • Based on findings from a state retrofit pilot program, an estimated 2,000 jobs could be created by the State of Tennessee and Tennessee higher education if retrofitting were accomplished to create a conservative 25 percent savings in energy use in buildings.
  • Policies to grow the green workforce in Tennessee need to include reemployment efforts for manufacturing workers and creation of more effective education and career opportunities for lower income workers.
  • Due to the far-ranging changes in technology and the many innovations in EE and RE that are taking place, additional studies will be needed to identify the industries most affected and to further define skill shortages and emerging occupations.
  • New estimates for jobs to be created in Tennessee through the use of key green technologies are significant. Recent estimates are that more than 40,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs could be created from $1.9 billion invested in energy efficient building retrofits; mass transit and freight rail; smart grid; and renewables including wind and solar power and advanced biofuels.
  • Meeting the needs of the clean energy economy will require Tennessee to upgrade the skills of its workforce. Investment in state and local green collar worker training will be needed at all levels –- high school career and technical science and pre-engineering courses; on-the-job training programs; certificate programs at Tennessee technology centers; union apprenticeship programs for skilled trades; associate degree programs in areas such as renewable energy installation and audits; and bachelor’s and master’s programs in science, engineering and management related to agriculture and green technologies will all be important.

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