Environmental Careers: Current Industry Trends, Part II
The 2009 Stimulus Package included $4.3 billion for Smart Grid technology, which includes equipment and specialized knowledge to facilitate the transition to cleaner energy. Some of the jobs created by the new Smart Grid will fall into the following categories:
McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2008 Smart Market Report states that approximately 70 percent of homebuyers would choose to buy a “green” home over a conventional home, especially if the green aspects translate into lower utility bills. The report also predicts that “by 2013, the overall green building market (both residential and nonresidential) may nearly triple from today’s $36 billion to $49 billion, reaching $96 billion to $140 billion, to represent 20 to 25 percent of all building starts.”
Houses and buildings will need to be retrofitted with solar panels, smart appliances and energy storage facilities, while trucks, locomotives and other vehicles will need to be converted to use environmentally friendly fuel or biodiesel. In 2008, demand for solar energy rose by more than 100 percent, and revenue in the solar industry is expected to top $50 billion in 2012, according to E magazine.
Construction of renewable power plants
According to clean energy experts quoted in Solar Today, “the renewable energy pipeline that will power our low-carbon economy involves … producing renewable electricity at a utility scale … constructing an integrated, long-distance, high-voltage, sustainable transmission grid network … and transforming consumer energy consumption at the point of use.”
and installation of solar panels, wind turbines, energy storage facilities and “smart
meters” for tracking energy distribution
If the cap-and-trade system—whereby companies may buy and/or sell credits that allow the holder to emit a certain amount of emissions—is adopted, the money from the fees would be reinvested in alternative energy.
Policymakers would have to significantly revise federal regulatory policy for the above changes to be fully realized. According to Solar Today, “the underlying policy changes must include substantial reform of the regulatory structure for planning, siting and paying for an extra-high-voltage transmission grid and new transmission lines. In addition, it will require policies for modernizing distribution networks with information technology.” While government support for this Smart Grid is, as mentioned earlier, already underway, a pending proposal from the Department of Energy for a National Renewable Portfolio Standard would set a minimum requirement for the percentage of electrical power that comes from renewable generation.
Additionally, President Obama has espoused the cap-and-trade system, a structure that has proven highly successful in Europe. Under this system, companies have to pay a designated fee to emit a certain amount of a greenhouse gas. Estimates for emissions payments reinvested annually run as high as $15 billion.