The Northwest Power and Conservation Council received a staff presentation earlier this year concluding that the job growth potential from conservation as prescribed in the 6th Power Plan was positive but small (less than 1% of total regional employment). Click here for a copy of the presentation.
The Council’s staff paper is concerning on at least two fronts. First, the methodological approach in unclear and the author seems to unreasonably characterize the breadth of the industry very narrowly, For example, in explain how energy efficiency creates jobs, the presentation states;
“When retrofitting an existing building with high efficiency windows, the window manufacturer orders more raw material, hires more workers, designers, etc. This leads to more jobs, some local, some out of state. Over time the employment impact of making windows more efficient may be small as these efficient windows become standard installation windows.”
I suspect that the majority of NEEC members would not characterize the industry in such a narrow way. If this thinking about the nature of the energy efficiency industry permeates the analysis, it doesn’t seem surprising that the results show only a modest gain in employment. The analysis does cite other published papers on the job impact of energy efficiency investments. It cites 9 other studies from the U.S. and Europe with a job impact ratio per $1M project investment. All of these studies (each reputable organizations) show dramatically higher job impact ratios that that used in the Council analysis. The presentation does not explain this discrepancy. It does conclude, however, that the energy efficiency industry needs to do a better job to “define and track the invisible efficiency jobs in order to make the invisible visible.” No disagreement there. In kind, however, the industry also suggests that the Power Council reach out to the energy efficiency industry and its multiplicity of business models to gain a more thorough understanding prior to publishing conclusions on the industry’s job growth potential.