Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Comparison of Energy Technologies on Economics, Jobs, Land Footprints and More

Last May, Public Utilities Fortnightly published an independent analysis by Navigant Consulting that provided some great comparisons between various energy technologies. One of the comparisons is the number of jobs created on an equivalent basis.

To analyze the economic and workforce contributions of various energy technologies, the authors began by reviewing the contribution of permanent direct local jobs per megawatt of installed electric capacity for the most common types of generation technologies…

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On top of jobs, the analysis calculated the workforce impacts from each technology. Here’s what it said about nuclear:

Nuclear plants create the largest workforce annual income based on both large capacity and being a labor-intensive technology (see Figure 3). The average wages in the nuclear industry compare favorably with other power generation technologies. While nuclear power plant operator wages may approach $50 an hour, the large support staff and security force wages tend to lower the overall average below that of other technologies.

imageThe article goes on to provide a few other equivalent comparisons such as land footprints and construction lead times. Make sure to check out the rest of the four page piece, it’s quite good.

9 comments:

Philip said...

Curious article. No mention of the massive infrastructure of mining and transportation required for Coal. It seemed to be only the impact on the local workforce from the generating plants themselves. A very myopic view IMO.

gmax137 said...

So, being 'labor-intensive' is a good thing?? I don't think so. Else we could generate power with a million human powered treadmills... The advantages of nuclear power all proceed from the six orders of magnitude greater energy density (compared to chemical derived power). Touting lots of jobs is just pandering.

DocForesight said...

@gmax137 -- Well said. However, imagine the spin-off increases in food production to supply the calories consumed by the treadmill "energizers" would require, and the field workers who would be needed to tow the 3-bottom plows, drills, cultivators, combines, ...

Jobs, jobs for everyone! Somehow, I don't think it would go over very well.

David Bradish said...

So, being 'labor-intensive' is a good thing??

I don't see how it's bad, the numbers are what they are and your treadmill analogy doesn't convince me otherwise. Not only that, the types of jobs at nuclear plants vary substantially so it's not like workers are being bored to death on a labor intensive manufacturing line.

Touting lots of jobs is just pandering.

You call it pandering, I call it messaging. Maybe you haven't been following, but there is a lot of misinformation out there about the economic impacts of various technologies and quite a bit of it is exaggerated. The Navigant analysis is one of the first ever I've seen that actually aggregates the data on a comparative basis.

Jobs, jobs, jobs, yes, sometimes it may sound dorky. But there are almost 15 million people unemployed in the US and the outlook isn't bright yet. Creating jobs matters to a lot of folks right now. It would be a missed opportunity by us if we didn't provide the correct info when it mattered greatly.

Anonymous said...

It is a reasonable component of the overall picture. The greenies are always playing the jobs card when it comes to pushing their technologies. If they're going to play it that way, so should we. The numbers presented in the article show that nuclear has a pretty good case to make.

Nuclear jobs are good-paying, high tech jobs that support an educated workforce, and present opportunities for advancement that you would not have shoveling biomass. There is something to be said for the quality of the jobs offered. I have nothing against good, honest manual labor jobs, but given a choice, I prefer the professional environment of engineering and plant operations to operating a rake out in the fields.

perdajz said...

These numbers don't make sense. As gmax137 said, more workers per unit output is a sign of inefficiency. These numbers suggest that a wind power worker is 100 times more productive than a nuclear power worker. That simply is not true.

There's something wrong with this study. For one thing, installed capacity should be adjusted by capacity factor. Perhaps the whole fuel cycle needs to be considered, or perhaps the term "direct" jobs has been applied inconsistently.

David Bradish said...

gmax137 and perdajz, I've been struggling with the same idea. Here's a thought: while jobs/MW is one metric for electricity, maybe another metric is jobs/Btu which is a measure of all energy. With the greater energy density of nuclear compared to others, maybe that's the way for you to think of job efficiency per unit of output...

Or another thought is that you have to consider the total costs of everything of the plant (workforce, materials, financing, fuel, etc) and divide it by the production. We already know new nuclear is competitive and existing nuclear is making good money. Maybe the argument you make is that while nuclear is labor-intensive, at least the money is spent on people instead of for fuel like other technologies...

gmax137 said...

I'm thinking that the relative fuel costs (between nuclear and, say, coal)tell the story: for nuclear, the fuel cost is nearly negligible - indicating that the manpower (jobs) required to create the fuel and bring it to the plant is also small. For coal, the fuel cost is the dominant contributor to the overall cost - indicating that the manpower required to create the fuel & bring it to the plant is large. In other words, there are alot of "coal" jobs offsite and not seen in the "direct" numbers quoted. If this is true, then the only use for these "direct" numbers is for convincing local residents that the proposed nuclear unit "will bring jobs to town." For everyone who doesn't live there, the numbers don't mean much...

crf said...

I had the same thought as today's commentators when I read, in 2009, on the old WSJ environmental capital blog that Duke energy's CEO was also touting nuclear as creating more jobs for the installed power. The message is going to puzzle anyone who thinks beyond "more jobs is always better".

"I would say nuclear would trump coal because it produces zero greenhouse gases, it provides power 24/7, and, probably most importantly, it probably produces more jobs than even solar or wind on a per-megawatt basis." - - Jim Rogers