Energy Department report says green power grants created up to 75,000 annual jobs

The program, which expired at the end of last year, has provided roughly $9 billion in grants covering over 23,000 large wind and solar photovoltaic projects, according to the report.

“Construction- and installation-related expenditures are estimated to have supported an average of 52,000–75,000 direct and indirect jobs per year over the program’s operational period,” the report concludes.

“These expenditures are also estimated to have supported $9 billion–$14 billion in total earnings and $26 billion–$44 billion in economic output over this period. This represents an average of $3.2 billion–$4.9 billion per year in total earnings and $9 billion–$15 billion per year in output,” it states.

The bulk of the jobs have been “indirect” positions in manufacturing and supply chains associated with renewables development, while design, construction and installation of the projects represent a smaller share.

Going forward, the annual operation and maintenance of the projects is estimated to support between 5,100 and 5,500 direct and indirect jobs annually over the two to three decade life of the energy facilities, the report finds.

The report lays out the extent to which the grant program drove U.S. renewables development during the economic downturn.

The 23,000-plus projects the grants supported represent almost half the non-hydropower renewable energy capacity additions between 2009 and 2011, according to the report.

The one-time grants in lieu of tax credits were meant to prevent “stagnation” in the renewable energy industry when the tax credit market was tanking, the report notes.

It summarizes why production and investment tax credits had fizzled as an option when the economy cratered:

Given that many renewable energy companies are relatively nascent and small, their tax liability is often less than the value of the tax credits received; therefore, some project developers are unable to immediately recoup the value of these tax credits directly. Typically, these developers have relied on third-party tax equity investors to monetize the value of the main federal incentives for renewable energy project development. However, in the wake of the 2008/2009 financial crisis, the pool of tax equity investors dramatically decreased, limiting the ability of renewable energy project developers to recoup the value of these tax credits.

The administration is seeking an extension of the grant program, but that faces huge hurdles on Capitol Hill.