Today in Cleantech

The Department of Energy has released its report on how many jobs were created by the Treasury Department’s cash grants program for renewable energy projects, which financed up to 30 percent of the cost of a project from 2009 through 2011. The report is largely positive, indicating that the $9 billion dollar project resulted in estimates of between 52,000 and 75,000 jobs over 3 years, for a result of between 150,000 and 220,000 job years. If we divide $9 billion by the middle of the estimate—185,000—we get a cost of about $49,000 per job created. Pricy. Though if we factor in the estimated 5,300 jobs that will last 25 years due to ongoing operation of the solar and wind farms, we get another 132,500 job years for a total of 317,000 job years and a cost of $28,000 per job year.
To my mind there were other reasons for the program, like energy security and concerns about climate change, and it’s hard to put a price on mitigating the risk of sea level rise or going to war over energy. And maybe that’s what sometimes troubles me about crunching numbers or the DOE even feeling like it should have to justify the program based on job creation. We sure don’t expect that from any of the programs at the Department of Defense or the Department of Health and Human service, even though both have massive budgets with stacks of grant programs.