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« Judith Curry on NPR | Main | A feature, not a bug »

More evidence that green jobs are illusory

Pat Swords writes to tell me of an official report that has been published in Germany this week, featuring findings of research commissioned by the German Ministry of Environment (BMU) and the Federal Environment Agency(UBA). The report confirms that the Green economy is a dud, and produces few, if any jobs (source):

A recent contribution to the IZA-Standpunkte series cautions against overly optimistic expectations with regard to job creation through Germany's renewable energy turnaround. To date, there is no reliable scientific evidence on whether additional jobs can be expected from the transition to a green economy. Both a precise definition of "green jobs" and access to the relevant micro data would be essential for a sound judgment. Moreover, it remains unclear to what extent the green economic transition might also threaten "non-green" jobs. IZA expert Nico Pestel, who authored the study, says that "research on 'green jobs' is still at a very preliminary stage. However, the existing evidence suggests that much of the euphoria expressed by green energy proponents is overblown. I don't think Germany will see a 'green job miracle' any time soon."

Pat continues:

So what has been achieved given the green jobs didn't materialise?

The sad thing is that the commercial price for generating electricity in a conventional power station on the German grid is between 3 and 6 cent per kWh (unit), with an average of 3.5 cent per kWh. However, solar suppliers have to be given an average of 37.5 cent per kWh and wind 9.3 cent per kWh (plus hidden costs on extra grid requirements). As a consequence of this renewable programme, which has now achieved 20% of Germany's electricity being generated by wind and sun, a renewable supplement (EEG Zuschlag) of 5.3 cent has to be added to each kWh of electricity supplied in Germany to cover these additional costs (Note there a limited number of heavy industrial sites, which up to now have an exception from this supplement). Out of this central fund the renewable producers are provided with their extra financial compensation. 

As one can imagine, in the summer months when the sun shines, the bills rocket. One can see how the fund performs on a monthly basis in the graph below, the low point in 2012 corresponding to a deficit of €3,000 million (€3 billion) :

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.


Unfortunately as it was very sunny around this July, solar panels in Germany produced a lot of power, so bills soared and the EEG fund for that month alone was over €1.5 billion in the red. The EEG supplement for next year is being agreed and should be fixed by end of September, but it looks like being 6.4 to 6.7 cent per kWh.

Worse CO2 emissions from the German electricity sector are rising and not decreasing as greater use has to be made of coal plants. In addition no less that 15 conventional power plants in Germany have applied to the Federal grid authorities to shut down. They are no longer interested in operating as the commercial incentive is gone. As priority has to be given to renewables, the commercial reality of conventional power stations operating inefficiently with reduced run times is no longer justifiable.

It is a bit of a mess, so no wonder it is a 'hot topic' for the autumn German Federal elections.

To quote the conclusions of this week's report on green jobs:

The few studies come to the result, that the relevance of the employment in the Green sector despite great euphoria is very small and is only a small segment of the German labour market. As a result it is questionable if the change to a Green Economy in respect of employment can actually be expected to provide growth. To this is remains fully open, if the Green Jobs actually are Green, i.e. lead to an improved environmental quality and to a reduction of emissions.

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Reader Comments (49)

Die Dummheit regelt auch in Deutschland. Quelle surprise!

Aug 22, 2013 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterOneTrophyWin

So - David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Davey claiming that 'renewables' will create 'thousands of jobs' isn't true..?
Well - knock me down with a wind turbine blade...!

Aug 22, 2013 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

The Verso report "Worth The Candle? The Economic Impact of Renewable Energy Policy in Scotland and the UK" of March 2011 found that

for every job created in the UK in renewable energy, 3.7 jobs are lost. In Scotland there is no net benefit from government support for the sector, and probably a small net loss of jobs.

Aug 22, 2013 at 12:54 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"solar panels in Germany produced a lot of power, so bills soared.."

Much more of such 'free energy' and we'll all be broke!

Aug 22, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

sherlock1: I think the requisite phrase is 'knock me down with a non-revolving wind turbine blade'. Or, less amusingly, are we talking the stray feathers of a White Throated Needletail whose beautiful life's just been ended by a revolving one?

Aug 22, 2013 at 1:06 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

And all of the above does not even include industry moving away due to high energy costs, well at least the Germans are talking about the possibility that the bad smell in their nostrils is a rat.

Aug 22, 2013 at 1:08 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Richard Drake - you are spot on. Wind currently providing a massive 0.6% of (relatively low) UK electricity demand....

Nick and Call-Me-Dave - just get your bins out and have a good look at those offshore white elephants you just 'launched' with much fanfare...

Aug 22, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Does being a researcher of the 'green economy' count as a green job?

Aug 22, 2013 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Last time I looked, all sorts of perfectly ordinary jobs were classified as "green" - basically, anybody who works in the waste industry. I've heard steelworkers are also classed as "green" because they're producing the raw material for wind turbines!

Aug 22, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide

I remain confused by these reports which most would have guessed the conclusions of long ago. My confusion revolves around whether the architects of these initiatives are so enamoured by a "mission" that they are blind to the real costs and outcomes, or do they know what will happen, but enact them anyway because they win politically and they know the public will pay regardless?
Is the IQ curve slipping ever more downwards??
Are there no intelligent statesmen in politics anymore??

Aug 22, 2013 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered Commentermike geo

Mike geo (Aug 22, 2013 at 2:28 PM)

Are there no intelligent statesmen in politics anymore??

A simple question meriting a simple answer: No.

I recall Crackpot Caroline on Question Time announcing that “green” energy was “jobs-rich”. Similarly, one of the protestors up a chimney at Kingsnorth(?) said that there could be hundreds of thousands of jobs giving us cheap electricity from “renewables”. In both instances, the thought rose in my mind: “So, who is going to pay all these workers?” Perhaps they will be volunteers, you never know, but I expect the answer from both would have been… you guessed – the government! I am surprised we are not getting protests from the cloud-cuckoos about the level of immigration.

Aug 22, 2013 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

I have never understood what the green jobs are meant to be. It would be useful if the government were to detail what jobs they consider that the green industry/renewable industry will produce.

Most of the hardware is manufactured abroad (particularly China, but some from Scandinavia), and it is unlikely that any significant proportion of the hardware will be manufactured in the UK. So no jobs there.

Of course, there are jobs in the construction industry, ie., building the windfarms. This no doubt provides some SHORT TERM employment, much of which will consist of cheap foreign born workmen, and high end specialists who are likely to be foreign born engineers. So only a little possobility for employment of UK citizens. Against this, one has to bear in mind that if windfarms were not being built, there would be construction jobs building rerplacement conventionally powered generators.

There is construction work in connecting the windfarm to the grid, but again this is only SHORT TERM employment.

There are jobs incidental to fitting domestic homes with solar arrays etc and better insulation. Again, much of this will be done by foreign born relatively low paid workmen.

Then there are the parasitic jobs, eg., governmental and quasi governmental compliance officers and green initiative officers etc. These jobs are no doubt permanent (including unfunded public sector pensions) but they provide no useful service to the country and are just a drain on public exopenditire of tax money taken from the citizens.

I might be missing something obvious but I cannot foresee any long term green jobs. What are the long term jobs. I can of course see how increased energy costs will make UK industry uncompetitive causing it to cut back in its wage bill to remain competitive. This will force more efficient productivity on the workrs/employees, but also probably will restrain future wage rises and may well lead to lay offs/redundancies as industry has to scal back its costs to off-set the increased cost of energy. In severe cases, the industry may relocate abroad or close down completely (as market share is lost due to it being unable to compete within a cheaper global market) with the resultant increase in the unemployed.

Ironically, the lay off of industrial jobs may create some new jobs, namely more state employed workers in job centres and benefit offices to oversee the increased number of people without work and the higher state benefit bill that thereby results. That is not teh sort of jobs incidental to the green economy that I want to see.

These numpties ought to know that the secret to jobs is low cost for industry. Land costs and business rates are high in the UK. Labour costs are high compared to developing nations. So energy costs become an ever more important component for a company to be able to keep its competitiveness in a global market place. The other available variable is tax, a low tax rate will assist industry, but then again, this hardly helps the government. Presently the government is providing heavy industrial users with some dispensations regarding carbon credits/the floor price for carbon. Soon it will have to lower corporation tax so as to assist industry in offf-setting its high energy costs. This lower corporation tax rate will have to be subsidised by the ordinary citizen/tax payer unless the government cuts back even more on public spending.

I cannot see a happy ending to this madness. Government policy ought to be to provide industsry and consumer alike with a relaible source of energy at the cheapest price possible. Instead government policy has been the complete opposite. to make it as expensive as possible and to make it unreliable.

The only possible salvation is the full and speedy exploitation of shale. With the hope that other European countries also exploit their shale reserves. If the UK and Europe all exploit their reserves of shale, there will be a glut of gas on the market and gas prices will tumble and thereby will provide industry with cheap energy which it desperately needs to remain competitive on the world stage and which the UK needs for its employment prospects.

Green jobs for the long term are just fantasy, and always have been. It has always been obvious that the green route will destroy real long term jobs. The UK government has been very short sighted. Blinded by ideology, whereas a government should always remain pragmatic.

Aug 22, 2013 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

I thought Rupert Darwall's book - The Age of Global Warming - which I've just read chronicles the descent into madness of these policies, although it does not really explain why. Perhaps it is not possible to.

Aug 22, 2013 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

It would be nice if consumers' electricity bills included clear statements like 'This quarter, 10% of your electricity was produced by renewables, so your bill is [say] 200 euros, not the [say] 150 euro it would have been otherwise.'

Aug 22, 2013 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

richard verney

This recent BH post and article catalogues some of the jobs considered "green" by the lunatic powers that be.

Aug 22, 2013 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

It should not be hard for even an idiot to understand that wind can never be efficient or economical.

NO WIND operator gets paid
USEFUL WIND operator gets paid
TOO MUCH WIND operator gets paid

NO WIND fossil fuel plants can run efficiently and profitably
USEFUL WIND fossil fuel plants asked to run at less than efficient and profitable levels
TOO MUCH WIND fossil fuel plants asked to run at less than efficient and profitable levels

RESULT As in Germany fossil fuel plants ask to be able to shut down because they can not make a profit. New fossil fuel power plants can not be built because investors can see that there is no profit in it.

The whole situation is Kafkaesque.

Aug 22, 2013 at 3:23 PM | Registered CommenterDung

What are the long term jobs of the green revolution?

Well, how about cleaning the required hundreds of square miles of solar panels?
Output drops off as they get covered by dust, and even more so when covered by snow.
There is a boatload of full time jobs for people armed with feather dusters keeping these clean.

However, I can more readily imagine these turning into cleaning jobs along the lines of those in the Silo book series given the obvious regard that governments seem to have for their electors.

Aug 22, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterPJP

It is not only from Germany that there is bad news about green jobs. Yesterday it was announced that the Danish wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas, has sacked its chief executive.

Vestas ousts chief executive as losses increase

The chairman of Vestas has said the focus of the embattled wind turbine manufacturer will now be “stable profitability”, after the company jettisoned its chief executive in the wake of multiple profit warnings and thousands of job losses.

Denmark has been investing in wind energy on a large scale for many years, and it works there after a fashion since the back-up is provided in the form of hydro power from Sweden and Norway. However the job losses at Vestas show that hopes of "green jobs" have, to a significant extent, proved illusory.

Of course some "green" jobs are desirable. Nobody would dispute that improving the efficient use of energy is desirable, nor that tackling waste and pollution is generally a good thing. However the indiscriminate support of "green" jobs and the idea that they can save the economy are foolish notions.

When will the "greens" in all British parties, including those in "the greenest government yet", wake up to reality?

Aug 22, 2013 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

But of course this will make no difference to the attitudes of our politicians. They will still insist black is white, with the same old confidence. Who will be the first politician to describe the writers of the report as, "as bad as terrorists?"

Aug 22, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

It is normal economics that the energy industry's efficiency is inversely proportional to the number of people employed. An efficient energy industry would employ very few people.

Aug 22, 2013 at 4:24 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@mike fowle

"although it does not really explain why"

I suspect the answer to "why" is that so many people stand to make so much money personally in the short term from these ridiculous policies, that they're prepared to ignore the long-term consequences for the country.

Someone was bragging to me and Mr TT recently about how much money he was "earning" from his solar panels. He clearly had no interest in considering the source of his largesse - nor did he seem to have any interest in the environment either: his sole concern was his short-term gain.

Aug 22, 2013 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide

There must be hundreds of opportunities: let me think;

Water fetcher
Firewood gatherer
Fork stick messenger
Chimney sweep
Rag & bone man
Charcoal burner
Fish smoker
Electrician (part-time)

I could go on :/

Aug 22, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat


You forgot Climate Change Officer ^.^

Aug 22, 2013 at 4:57 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Turning Tide.

No doubt that is an important factor, but there is a Messianic zeal about so many that is not due to monetary considerations.

Aug 22, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

It is surely an axiom of basic economics that when a government forces subsidies to be provided to any business, that economy has lower output and employment than it would if there were no subsidies. Subsidies result in the employment of capital and labour in economic activity which would not take place without the subsidies; resources are mis-allocated.

The subsidies have been justified in the case of "green" jobs on the basis that the "investment" today in subsidies generates a return in the future from a lower social cost of the negative externality arising from future global warming than there otherwise would have been, a proposition for which there is little or no supporting evidence.

Aug 22, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGuy Leech

The nationalised CEGB employed hundreds of thousands of "workers" to supply the whole of the country with electricity. Following privatisation and the break-up of the CEGB, whole swathes of non-jobs disappeared and productiivity soared. We are now returning to the bad old ways of Government micro-managing the electricity supply industry with huge employment associated with low-grade or non-jobs and very low productivity. We are well back on the road to ruin.

Aug 22, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"whole swathes of non-jobs disappeared and productivity soared"

Doubtless true, Phillip, but I don't recall a corresponding drop in price. The old ratchet principle, I suppose...

Aug 22, 2013 at 5:25 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Aug 22, 2013 at 4:24 PM | Phillip Bratby

It is normal economics that the energy industry's efficiency is inversely proportional to the number of people employed. An efficient energy industry would employ very few people.

For well over a century coal was Britain's main fuel and the coal mining industry employed huge numbers. The oil industry is less labour intensive but is still a significant employer - take the case of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen: How the North Sea oil boom transformed a city

Aug 22, 2013 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Re: jamesp

> but I don't recall a corresponding drop in price.

In real terms electricity prices dropped during the 1990s to a low in about 2003. I'll dig out the source later (my dinner is ready).

Aug 22, 2013 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

It has to be remembered that the CEGB was heavily subsidised (ie it lost money every year, I recall in exces of £1bn/yr towards the end)), so prices didn't necessarily fall as productivity rose. It just meant less of our taxes went to prop up the CEGB and to keep the price of electricity down.

Aug 22, 2013 at 5:46 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Remember wind/solar are unique among engineering because there is way to measure their actual contribution to the power supply. Look at this simple puzzle for a system not interconnected.
Contribution for wind /solar

No wind turbines/solar installed at all. No contribution.

100% wind no fuel. No contribution
100% solar No contribution.

100%n renewable is no good because there is no power when the source is not available. 100% wind
cannot be used because its too erratic.

So at what point between 0 and 100% is wind's contribution optimised?

No one ever bothered to answer that question and there is no formula to calculate it.

The answer is that wind/solar never give a contribution at any level of %.

If you add a useless product to a useful one, it does no good. Example is putting water in beer. You can still drink it, but it achieves nothing. Filling up you car with polystyrene, it will still go but there will be no room for passengers and it does nothing to the usefullness of the car.

Aug 22, 2013 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterVal Martin

"Jobs" are a cost of production, not a benefit. If you try to construe a cost as a benefit, contradictions follow.

Aug 22, 2013 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

It's worse than we thought! j/k
The greens' intentionally imprecise language lures citizens to believe that all these "new" green jobs are in ADDITION to the current workforce. No where do they explain that many of these jobs have merely been reclassified from "conventional jobs" and to add the two is double counting.
A few small examples, a bus driver or taxi operator who now uses a hybrid or electric vehicle (or burns nat. gas or ethanol) is now in the green jobs base but has not been subtracted from the conventional jobs count. The factory workforce that builds electric buses in my town are green; but what about the folks who would have built the new diesel bus that is not purchased? (Of course the diesel would have been purchased from city funds but the much more expensive, about 2X, electric buses and charging stations are from federal they are free.) /rant
The bottom line is they avoid saying what % the TOTAL workforce will increase; only how many new green jobs were created. It's not THEIR fault if you can't tell the difference (until after the fact).

Aug 22, 2013 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Daddis

What is the definition of a " green job".

Aug 22, 2013 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Steiner

Here's some more "green" jobs- cold-callers trying to shove the Government's "Green Deal" down your throat.
Just had one of these unfortunates trying to sign me up.

Since they were paying (I hope) for the call, I feigned interest for a bit before informing them that I wouldn't be one of the very few idiots who had signed up for this con since it was launched 8 months ago.

Aug 22, 2013 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Pat Swords
This looks like a very valuable report. I looked for an English version, tried the US flag sign but it didn't work. Do you have to be a member to access the translations?

Aug 22, 2013 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell


There is a short English synopsis in the first link, you might try an autotranslate for the other two. I translated the piece above at the end of the Bishop's post in relation to the conclusion of the report. The report itself is reasonably short, basically the author was only presenting the various studies which time and time again came to the same conclusion:

I don't think anybody (of an informed nature that is) is in the least bit surprised, the only thing is how have the politicians and the media got away with this for so long?

What I would like to point out in relation to jobs which were to be created by the EU's 20% renewable energy programme, the section on Impacts of the template prepared by the EU for the Member State National Renewable Energy Action Plans (Section 5.3) included a Table to be filled in relating to financial cost, greenhouse gas savings and job creation. Nineteen of the Member States left it blank while the others fudged it.

Following a parliamentary question by Struan Stevenson MEP, Commissioner Oettinger (DG Energy) replied that Section 5.3 of the template was an optional reporting requirement to avoid an excess administrative burden on the Member States - I kid you not!

You can read the details in the below (it's in English):

There is only one way this type of behaviour is going to lead to.

Aug 22, 2013 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat Swords

Last Sunday mid-morning at least 100 massive wind turbines stood idle on the row of wind-'farms' that cross the South-Lanarkshire / Galloway border, near Abington. Not a turbine turned, despite ideal wind conditions. This situation must have required many jobs: Person to decide no electricity was required, person to tell the operators to switch them off, person to switch them off, person to calculate how much electricity would have been produced, person to calculate how much money to charge the government for lost revenue, person to decide the amount to charge us the 'customers', person to send the money to the foreign wind-'farm' owners, etc, etc, etc.

Aug 22, 2013 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterKarl T

Some signs of sanity returning:

Wind Turbine Giant Hits Turbulence

Vesta has just given their Chief Exec the boot, so that's one less "green" job. :D

Aug 22, 2013 at 9:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide

Meanwhile the Tyndall Centre want to destroy the UK's chemical industry that employs half a million.

Aug 22, 2013 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood


Thanks, I''ll look tomorrow and ensure this news reaches a wider audience. It's up there with Gordon Hughes' report on windmill reliability

Aug 22, 2013 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Never mind about new green jobs. There are grave concerns about how global warming is affecting business in old and well established industries

Aug 23, 2013 at 1:50 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

It is easy to see what effect expensive/cheap energy has on industry and jobs, by looking at America.

One of the real revolutions of the shale gas phenomena is that as a consequence of it having driven down the costs of energy, industries which at one time had up sticks and moved abroad, are now returning to the States. Industries are relocating back on shore. The cheap energy is creating a lot of employment.

Green/renewable energy leads to expensive energy and job loss.

Cheap energy from fossil fuels leads to more employment and job opportunities.

The real jobs are not in the green sector, and real jobs are best created by making energy as cheap as possible. A pity that the government does not understand this simple and basic fact about the economic realities of life.

Aug 23, 2013 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

It is neither desirable nor necessary for a liberal (old-school) government to have either the knowledge as to how much electricity is being commercially produced or an opinion as to by what means it should be produced.

The civil courts are there to proceed against harm to persons and property. It is no business of the courts to command that goods be produced - unless they are considering a breach of contract - and it should not be a matter for the courts to consider how goods are produced (unless an injunction is being sought to prevent some palpable damage that would be suffered by particular persons arising from the production process in question).

I believe the authorities in Hong Kong during the 1960's did not concern themselves with the generation of electricity.

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

What I tell you, almost, and inadvertently, three times may be no less true.

Bob Bellman Layson

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

@ Mike Fowle

Rupert Darwall's book - The Age of Global Warming - which I've just read chronicles the descent into madness of these policies, although it does not really explain why. Perhaps it is not possible to.

Perhaps not indeed. On the previous occasions when Europe succumbed to fascism, why was that? It's hard to say, unless one posits that the default human state is an affinity for fascist rule, and we're due for another dose.

Fascism, like religion, seems to spawn periodically in human society without obvious proximate cause.

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

GrantB: Grave concerns. That's dead right.

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:54 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I have copies of two government sponsored papers, one from Germany and one from Spain both criticizing green energy.

Aug 23, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Justice4Rinka. Perhaps but I devoutly hope not. But fear and ignorance are a toxic combination.

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

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