Design and Construction, Green Building, Human Resources, Sustainability/Business Continuity

Study: Transition to Net-Zero Buildings Could Be a Major Job Creator

More than 2 million new jobs and up to 141 million additional job years can be created in Europe and the United States by adopting clean energy technologies in new and retrofitted buildings, according to a joint study from Schneider Electric and Boston University.

The open-access paper, “Building a Green Future: Examining the Job Creation Potential of Electricity, Heating, and Storage in Low-Carbon Buildings,” is among 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 digitalization of the buildings sector, which is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. According to the study, its job estimates will be fully realized over time in alignment with global net-zero goals targeting 2050, making this a reasonable timeline for 100% renovation of eligible buildings.

“It is increasingly clear that, thanks to modern technologies, it is now feasible to rapidly transition buildings to net-zero,” explained Vincent Petit, Schneider Electric’s senior vice president of climate and energy transition research. “What we often do not realize is that such a transition comes with significant socioeconomic benefits. This research is another demonstration of this fact.”

Key Findings

  • Job creation potential depends on both the region and type of building. For residential buildings, approximately 0.05 jobs can be created per building. For commercial buildings, it ranges between 0.3 and 4.7 jobs each. Due to the number of combined residential and commercial buildings, the job creation potential surpasses millions.
  • Europe envisions substantial job creation, with specific figures indicating the potential workforce growth in several key countries. France could potentially generate 295,000 jobs, closely followed by Germany with 257,000 jobs, Italy with 252,000 jobs, the U.K. 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 United States 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 job creation potential is 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 Schneider Electric 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.

“Employment is often a polarizing topic at the center of the transition to a net-zero economy, mired in uncertainty about emerging opportunities in green energy,” stated Professor Benjamin Sovacool, director of the Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability. “This study brings greater detail to the sizable potential for new jobs created by low-carbon buildings, a compelling co-benefit of decarbonization that could have the power to ease social and economic concerns and positively shape climate policy.”

According to the report authors, these findings can drive significant benefits in the near term, making the detailed estimations useful for informing companies, communities, and governments seeking to engage in building projects. For policymakers, understanding the potential that the transition to net-zero living can have on creating jobs could potentially incentivize skeptics to favor a green energy shift. For business decision-makers, job estimates can improve forecasts around scope, investment, lifecycle management and impact for building projects.

The full report is available here.

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