Perspectives: Jobs: Less Talk, More Creation

As the U.S. Presidential race heats up, there’s considerable talk about job creation. You’ll note I wrote “talk.” While I hear and read lots of rhetoric about who will … and who won’t … create jobs, I don’t see much action.

The unemployment rate in the U.S. remains above 8%. The rate compares to an average (based on records from 1948 to 2012) of 5.8%.1

With regard to job creation, the hydro industry has been providing work for Americans for more than 100 years. Case in point: In 1911, construction of the Ocoee Dam No. 1 (featured on page 34) required the employment of 1,500 workers.

Today, the U.S. hydropower industry provides about 7% of the electricity in the U.S. and employs 200,000 to 300,000 people in project development and deployment, manufacturing, operations and maintenance.2

To provide a snapshot of the breadth and diversity of hydropower’s economic impact, the National Hydropower Association (NHA) offers a U.S. Hydropower Supply Chain Snapshot on its website:

The snapshot, an interactive map, features nearly 2,000 companies in the hydro supply chain — even in diverse regions not typically associated with renewable energy like the South and Rustbelt. Those companies include small, medium and large firms and range from project developers to construction companies; architecture and engineering firms to electricians; and component manufacturers to biologists.

According to NHA, this map shows what’s at risk if the new U.S. President and Congress fail to provide a stable, predictable policy environment for renewable energy. “This map makes it clear that what happens in D.C. really does affect the rest of the country. These are real companies and real jobs,” says NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci.

NHA says the snapshot map is just that … data from a sampling of NHA member companies. NHA continues to collect additional jobs data from its members. However, the association says the map is the most comprehensive, interactive look at a renewable energy industry’s supply chain ever developed.

The topic of job creation is also on the minds of Canadians. In Canada, the unemployment rate is 7.2%, down from the country’s average of 8.5% (from 1976 to 2012).3

As in the U.S., the Canadian hydropower industry contributes to the Canadian economy by creating tens of thousands of jobs for the maintenance, upkeep and refurbishment of hydropower installations. In Canada, hydropower generation provides 60% of the country’s electricity. With those kinds of numbers, the claim by the Canadian Hydropower Association (CHA) that “hydropower is a cornerstone of the Canadian economy” makes sense.

Last year, the business school HEC Montreal conducted a study for CHA on the creation and economic development opportunities in Canada. Results of the study indicate hydropower investment could produce more than 1,000,000 Canadian jobs over the next 20 years from construction activities alone. The employment opportunities would occur in every region of the country.

Bottom line: When it comes to jobs, the North American hydropower industry doesn’t just talk about jobs … it creates them.

Marla J. Barnes,
Publisher and Chief Editor

2Data from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)

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