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Green Jobs Growth in the Shadow of Student Debt

James Smith's picture

James Smith is an avid prepper with a passion of self protection at all levels. He loves to write articles on environmentalism and green living. Currently he is promoting self sustainability and...

  • Member since 2018
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  • May 10, 2016


As we look back at April, also known as Earth Month, we’re celebrating job creation around renewable energy sources and the people who work in green industries. In the US, the solar industry alone employs more than 170,000 thousand people, a 21.8% increase since 2013. Mother Jones reports that solar is adding jobs 10 times faster than the overall economy.

The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy reported that solar energy also requires more people per megawatt of electricity than any other energy source. While the sun certainly has its role to play, it’s all the people, and especially new graduates in rapidly expanding fields, who power the industry’s quick growth. This job growth is also reflected on the job site Indeed notes that “Since January 2013, the share of solar job postings has steadily accelerated, growing 43% from 2013 to 2014. Searches for solar jobs have also been increasing over the same time period, but not as dramatically.”

Research from Tara M. Sinclair, Indeed’s chief economist, indicates that job seekers “are aware of, and responsive to, changes in the labor market.” This kind of job search pattern following growth in job availability is a common trend throughout the workforce. Candidates typically search through the occupations with the most opportunities.

In some cases, job seekers may be ahead of the curve. When it comes to wind energy, the Energy Department is projecting that the industry could create 600,000 jobs. So candidates who follow the news and know what opportunities are coming have begun exploring what options are out there. When Indeed examines searches and postings for wind related jobs, they saw that growth rate of job searches for wind energy-related jobs was outpacing the growth rate of actual job postings.

The available jobs are not all being filled. The reason, as some education advocates are quick to point out, has more to do with inconsistent and irrelevant training in needed technologies than a lacking Liberal Arts education.

And while much outrage has been expressed over the many difficulties that U.S. college students and recent graduates are facing because of their student loan debt, some also argue that the debts are not unreasonable and its stagnating wages that are mostly to blame. John T. Delaney, Former Dean of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and the College of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh, reported for the Huffington Post that “Since the recession began in 2008, the amount of student loan debt has spiked by 84 percent, with borrowers now owing a [record $1.3 trillion]. Nearly 40 million Americans have at least one outstanding student loan, according to new research by Experian.”

Today, the average student owes around $28,000 in student loans, according to research by the Institute For College Access and Success. This is not the fault of graduates, or their parents who are helping with student loans, it’s just the price that students need pay to get a higher education.

But colleges are also playing a role in the problem, both for rapidly increasing costs (at twice the rate of inflation) and also for facilitating situations in which students are earning degrees offering few opportunities in the job market. Colleges and Universities must work harder to coordinate with local industries to facilitate training in career skills that will allow students to find employment in high growth and emerging fields – like green energy.

We need to make drastic changes towards lowering college costs, lessening debts, ensuring strong training in emerging fields, and opening up more avenues for federal student loan forgiveness. If we neglect to make these changes, younger generations will end by passing on the cycle and struggle of debt to their own children when it comes time to finance their own children’s education.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 10, 2016

James, a correction. You write:

The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy reported that solar energy also requires more people per megawatt of electricity than any other energy source.

Riding stationary bicycles with generators requires far more people per megawatt of electricity than solar. That’s where we should be focusing our investment.

Josh Nilsen's picture
Josh Nilsen on May 11, 2016

You encompass everything that is wrong with the baby boomer generation.

You should feel ASHAMED for insulting a legitimate energy source that is creating 100’s of thousands of good paying jobs for YOUR OWN COUNTRY.

The millennials already have the boomers to thank for basically ruining everything in the US, but hey let’s try to mess up renewable energy too.


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 11, 2016

Josh, what do you have against riding a bike? While creating jobs for Gen-Xers we could lower emissions, get them in shape (saving on healthcare costs), and generate valuable electricity.

It would do them nothing but good to turn off Caps-Lock and get out of Mom’s basement for a while.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on May 11, 2016

Please don’t compound his misery.  You should have just replied with this:


Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on May 11, 2016

Yes Josh, we boomers have some problems like Bob and Mr. Cartoon that have nothing useful to say and say it often. My engineer kid worked for a solar company, went to Oxford, worked for Apple, still busy, getting married.

Solar jobs have some value. Realize, the useless boomers were just as useless when we were your age and have certainly prospered since.

However, what I would do now at your age is learn automotive electrical systems. They are fully reliable, versatile, and the average homeowner only needs an average electrical power less than a 2 horsepower motor. Free hot water and space heat when needed (CHP), proven battery, off the shelf global technology. Local 12Volts DC is the way to go except for big appliances.

Kind of like in days of old the personal computer doing distributed processing while remaining linked to a more stable communication grid. Redundant, secure, fixable.

While natural gas fuel and piston engines could currently provide mechanical energy, new solutions will emerge faster than nuke pushers can explain their latest unproven theory.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on May 11, 2016

We’re also leaving you a hundred or so radioactive nuclear power plants to decommission over the course of your adult lives at a cost of many billions of dollars. Check out the projected cost to decommission Vermont Yankee, which is actually consuming electricity to keep the facility secured.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 11, 2016

Consuming electricity?! Horrors (if VY was still open, at least it would be clean electricity).

Hops, renewables activists, as willing pawns of the natural gas industry, can take all the blame for shutting down Vermont Yankee, San Onofre, Kewaunee, and others. Their electricity is being replaced by burning methane, and there’s no reason those plants couldn’t have continued to generate clean electricity indefinitely.

Send the decommissioning bill to SEIA and Mark Jacobson’s Precourt Institute, and they can divvy it up in court.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 11, 2016

Rick, I react strongly to the notion any problem can best be solved by making it more complex, and my reasons are entirely in sync with your mantra of “redundant, secure, fixable”.

Let’s end the charade we’ll ever get solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and coffee-ground-composting to work together and power our lifestyle. Not enough time or money in the world, and worse: it’s backfiring.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on May 11, 2016

Bob, “redundant, secure, fixable” is National (electric power) Security in a time of growing threat. As you know, the grid and baseload generation must have some buffer.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on May 11, 2016

I suspect we all agree on one thing: a fee on taking carbon out of the ground would result in a more rational market in which renewable and nuclear could compete. I think there would be a role for both that would vary with innovation, time, and geography.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 12, 2016

“… nuclear power plants to decommission … at a cost of many billions of dollars. ”
These scary stories claiming exorbitant nuclear decommissioning cost are all non-sense. Typical costs are an order of magnitude less than the (inflation adjusted) cost of building the plant, and amount to a small fraction of a cent/kWh spread over the life of the plant. Even in the case of a severely underfunded decommissioning fund, a couple of decades in safe-store and a modest interest rate will allow decommissioning with no extra cost to the public (although it does create jobs…).


By the way, I think we should change the rules to allow utilities to take half the decommissioning funds, if they agree to use the money for plant life extensions. Often times an investment of under $1/Watt can add 20 years to the viable life of a nuclear plant; this is long enough for the fund to recover the withdrawal.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 12, 2016

Rick, FERC has a lot of that going on right now. Last year it issued Rule 803, a directive which required installation of “autoreclosing relays” across the grid to bring electricity back online quickly in the event of breaker trips, and a wide range of upgrades and compartmentalization to be implemented over the course of five years. There’s already plenty of redundancy built into the grid; what’s needed is reliable generation ready to come online at night and when it’s not windy. We can count on wind and solar for neither.

The “growing threat” is an illusory one manufactured by Donald Trump to generate support; in similar fashion, George W. Bush invented Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to justify his oil war. Exploiting fear has an abysmal track record at improving national security. In the long run, it usually makes matters worse.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 12, 2016

Agreed Hops, though – in my opinion – the motive that’s keeping that fee from coming to fruition is next-of-kin to the one which closed San Onofre.

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