Research from Schneider Electric and Boston University says 247,000 UK jobs could be created during the transition to net-zero buildings and millions more in the EU and the US by adopting clean energy technologies in new and retrofitted buildings.
- More than two million new jobs in Europe and the US could be created by adopting readily available clean energy technologies in new and retrofitted buildings.
- The greatest job creation potential is in using heat pumps for large buildings and battery storage in regions and building types with surplus solar energy
- Understanding the potential that the transition to net zero living can have on creating jobs could potentially incentivise sceptics to favour a green energy shift.
Schneider Electric (EPA:SU), a global leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, together with Boston University, announced the results of a first-of-its-kind study assessing the potential for new jobs in the net zero transformation.
The results come from a research collaboration between the Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability and the Schneider Electric Sustainability Research Institute (SRI), which found that more than two million new jobs and up to 141 million additional job years can be created in Europe and the US by adopting clean energy technologies in new and retrofitted buildings.
“It is increasingly clear that, thanks to modern technologies, it is now feasible to rapidly transition buildings to net-zero,” explained Vincent Petit, senior vice president of climate and energy transition research at Schneider Electric and head of the SRI. “What we often do not realise is that such a transition comes with significant socioeconomic benefits. This research is another demonstration of this fact.”
Research paper shows potential for economic and emissions transformation
The open-access paper, Building a Green Future: Examining the Job Creation Potential of Electricity, Heating, and Storage in Low-Carbon Buildings is said to be the first to estimate job creation in low-carbon ‘buildings of the future’ at such a granular level.
Taking a micro-scale view, the study estimates the global employment outcomes for low-carbon building archetypes spanning residential, hospital, hotel, office, retail, and education in regions of North America, Europe and Asia. The data focused specifically on the potential around deploying rooftop solar panels, heat pumps, and energy storage batteries for self-produced (or prosumer) renewable energy.
These low-carbon technologies – all of which are readily available today – support the electrification and digitalisation of the buildings sector, which is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. The study’s job estimates will be fully realised over time in alignment with global net-zero goals targeting 2050, making this a reasonable timeline for 100% renovation of eligible buildings.
“Employment is often a polarising topic at the center of the transition to a net-zero economy, mired in uncertainty about emerging opportunities in green energy,” said Benjamin Sovacool, director of the Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability and Professor, Earth & Environment, College of Arts & Sciences. “This study brings greater detail to the sizable potential for new jobs created by low-carbon buildings, a compelling co-benefit of decarbonisation that could have the power to ease social and economic concerns and positively shape climate policy.”
Key findings from the research
One of the most important things to remember with the built environment is the massive difference between a new build and a retrofit. Similarly, job creation potential depends on both the region and the type of building. For residential buildings, approximately 0.05 jobs can be created per building, while the number ranges between 0.3 and 4.7 for commercial buildings. Due to the quantity of combined residential and commercial buildings, the job creation potential surpasses millions.
Europe would benefit greatly from this, with specific figures indicating the potential workforce growth in several key countries. France could generate 295,000 jobs, closely followed by Germany with 257,000 jobs, Italy with 252,000 jobs, the UK with 247,000 jobs, Spain with 212,000 jobs, and the Netherlands with 66,000 jobs.
Significant job creation is anticipated across various regions of the US with the West region with 182,000 potential jobs created, while the Midwest is projected to see an increase of 18,900 jobs. In the Northeast, 123,000 jobs are anticipated, and the South and Southeast regions are poised for substantial growth, with an estimated 319,000 jobs.
The greatest potential lies in using heat pumps for large buildings and battery storage in regions and building types with surplus solar energy. For heat pumps, solar PV, and batteries, the largest share of job years comes from construction and installation.
The research expands on two recent findings from the SRI that demonstrated over 60% carbon emissions reduction can also be achieved when implementing these low-carbon solutions and up to 70% when deploying digital building and power management solutions in existing office buildings.
The research is useful in that it provides support for policymakers in making decisions necessary to drive the net zero transition – providing significant near-term benefits, a crucial element for politicians attempting to navigate the volatile issues around the cost of transition and the impact on employment.
For policymakers, understanding the potential that the transition to net-zero living can have on creating jobs could potentially incentivise sceptics to favour a green energy shift. For decision-makers in the private sector, job estimates can help improve forecasts around scope, investment, lifecycle management and impact for building projects.