Given that today is Labor Day, it’s a good time to discuss microgrid jobs forecasts.
Last November, Peter Asmus, then part of Guidehouse and now executive director of the Alaska Microgrid Group, produced a research report, The Renewable Energy Economic Benefits of Microgrids, for the Civil Society Institute, the Millennial Action Project and Rocky Mountain Institute. Here’s what the report found about jobs and microgrids.
Investing in the renewable energy components of microgrids — especially energy storage and solar photovoltaics (PV) — generates jobs and yields economic benefits, along with resilience and environmental pluses. With additional regulation and incentives, those numbers could be even higher, according to the report.
Nearly 500,000 new jobs will be created just from the components of microgrids over the next decade, Asmus said during a discussion organized by Think Microgrid, a coalition affiliated with Microgrid Knowledge that educates regulatory and political leaders about the technology. Every million dollars invested in renewable energy microgrid assets creates 3.4 skilled jobs and $500,000 in additional economic benefits.
Construction jobs come out the winner because of microgrid asset growth. Renewable microgrid asset investments will generate 435,700 construction jobs by 2030, according to the report.
Investments in renewable microgrids are expected to grow. In 2021, 979 MW of renewable capacity in microgrids created 17,290 jobs. That national market should more than triple by the end of the decade, generating $72.3 billion in gross domestic product (GDP).
Microgrid jobs centered in California and Puerto Rico
Much of the microgrid jobs action takes place in California — thanks to state incentives and policies — and Puerto Rico, which has experienced the longest duration outages in the history of any US jurisdiction, said Asmus.
The report found that in California microgrids yielded 4,670 jobs and contributed $0.85 billion in GDP and $1.76 billion in business sales as of 2021. Over the next 10 years, California’s renewable asset microgrid capacity is expected to grow 14.5 times. That will yield 10,500 MW by 2030. As a result, spending on renewable microgrid assets is expected to produce 166,600 jobs and contribute $22.2 billion in GDP and $45.5 billion in business sales.
Investments in energy storage and solar PV are expected to play a key role in generating jobs – in the US, California and Puerto Rico.
Of California’s 166,600 jobs expected by 2030, investments in energy storage are expected to yield 86,090 jobs, with solar PV investments leading to 58,850 jobs by 2030.
14.5x growth in California microgrids
Overall, the installed capacity of renewable microgrids in California will increase by 14.5 times its existing size, which is a function of the impacts of public policies limiting fossil fuels and innovation aimed at carbon-free resources, said the report.
“The emergence of viable long-term energy storage solutions, a need to increase grid resiliency to reduce wildfire risks and an ambitious statewide goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045 all support California’s microgrid growth,” said the report.
The outlook for microgrid jobs in California is eye opening. Just as eye-popping are the predictions about Puerto Rico.
By 2030, renewable microgrid assets in Puerto Rico are expected to yield 9,030 jobs, said the report. Of those, 5,030 will come from storage investments, and 2,880 will be derived from solar, said the report. Puerto Rico needs microgrids to keep the lights on, and if solar PV and energy storage can be integrated into microgrids, much-needed resilience will be a benefit, according to the report.
“Bottom line: There are a lot of economic benefits generated by microgrids in all states but, in particular, California and Puerto Rico,” said Asmus during the panel discussion.
Creating even more microgrid jobs
The report noted that job creation and other economic benefits could be even higher — in California, Puerto Rico and elsewhere — with additional policy measures. “Because microgrids allow for the deployment of renewable technologies while increasing grid resiliency, further adoption is in the best interest of policymakers and the public,” said the report.
Policies recommended in the report include:
- Moving from grants to market-based incentives such as emissions reductions that reward high project performance. However, grants may still be needed in disadvantaged communities in which microgrid costs may be too high.
- Focusing on providing government funding for new clean and smart technologies such as artificial intelligence and advanced controls. These can boost the clean energy value of a microgrid internally and also to the larger grid.
- Prioritizing projects that promote new financing models such as energy-as-a-service.
- Creating metric systems for placing a value on resilience.
- Developing transjurisdictional policies aimed at ensuring microgrids are incentivized over diesel or other technologies not available during outages.
In addition to creating new policies, it’s important to consider the effects of the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the climate provisions of the new Inflation Reduction Act. The effects of these two microgrid-boosting initiatives were not included in the report.
More and more, microgrids are becoming increasingly important to society, providing economic and environmental benefits as well as jobs, said the report.
“The finding [of the study] proves that pursuing microgrids as a cornerstone of a more resilient America will produce well-paying jobs at all levels and significantly contribute to the economy,” said the report.
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