There’s good news for job seekers in the utility field: a recent study conducted by the Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability, in conjunction with Schneider Electric’s Sustainability Research Institute, indicates that installation and maintenance of solar photovoltaic (PV), heat pumps and battery storage could generate more than 2 million new clean energy jobs throughout the United States and Europe, while simultaneously edging closer to the global net-zero emissions objectives set for 2050.
The incorporation of clean energy technology such as rooftop solar PV, heat pumps and energy storage batteries in new and existing low-carbon buildings in sectors including healthcare, hospitality, offices, retail and education can have a significant effect on employment, as well as lowering carbon emissions, which is an important aspect in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The number of jobs created will vary by region and building type. According to the study, the addition of new jobs at commercial buildings could range from 0.3 to 4.7 per building. Geographically speaking, the South/Southeast is expected to see the highest number of new jobs at 319,000, with 182,000 new jobs forecast in the West, 123,000 in the Northeast and 18,900 in the Midwest.
Thomas Kwan, director of sustainability research at Schneider Electric, and one of the authors of the study, credits facilities managers who adopt clean energy technology with the creation of new jobs. Installation and maintenance will be needed for hardware and management of that hardware, he notes.
The two building classes modeled in the study (the “building of today” and the “building of the future”) have the same level of energy intensity for loads when it comes to heating, cooling and appliances, according to an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) database. However, the building of the future will have a heating load electrified with heat pumps and digital controls that can adjust energy usage based on occupancy for greater efficiency.
Kwan advises facilities managers to adopt a full system of solar panels, battery storage and heat pumps instead of adding just heat pumps for purposes of electrification. The decision should be based on the costs of gas and electricity—with potential increases and decreases—over the asset’s lifetime. Adding smart controls for heating and cooling can cut costs over the lifetime of the assets. This could dramatically change how facilities managers view the upfront costs of clean energy technology investments.
Facilities managers with limited budgets can access policy initiatives and government support mechanisms, Kwan suggests.
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Lori Lovely is an award-winning writer and editor in central Indiana. She writes on technical topics, heavy equipment, automotive, motorsports, energy, water and wastewater, animals, real estate, home improvement, gardening and more. Reach her at: [email protected]