4,000 new clean energy jobs in Montana, report predicts

2014-06-10T06:00:00Z 4,000 new clean energy jobs in Montana, report predictsBy TOM KUGLIN Independent Record Helena Independent Record
June 10, 2014 6:00 am  • 

A new economic report commissioned by two conservation groups says Montana will support more than 4,000 clean energy jobs in the next two decades.

The Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club hired Massachusetts-based Synapse Energy Inc. to analyze the impact of clean energy jobs based on market trends. The report found that Montana, which exports more than half of its energy produced to other states, should expect a steady increase of short- and long-term jobs related to solar, wind and energy efficiency.

“With the federal government’s new carbon pollution standards, the state will have to develop more renewable energy jobs,” said Kyla Maki, MEIC Clean Energy Program director.

The highest number of jobs created will come in wind, with more than 3,000 jobs related to constructing and operating wind farms. Solar will create more than 600 jobs and energy efficiency 264 jobs, according to the report. The numbers are conservative, Maki said.

Synapse determined the number of jobs by averaging expected jobs per year, meaning that short-term construction jobs that last a year or two would not count toward a gross total, but would count as part of an average, said Tyler Comings of Synapse.

Two-thirds to three-quarters of jobs would fall under short-term construction jobs depending on the type of energy production, he said.

Though funding for the report came from conservation groups, the report is based on statistics and raw numbers that are objective, Comings said.

“We’ve staked our reputation on being objective,” he said, noting that Synapse has contracted with many different entities and governmental agencies.

The report does not consider the jobs as new jobs created or account for jobs lost in other energy sectors, Comings said.

“The report doesn’t say these jobs are a replacement for Montana’s 2,500 coal jobs,” Maki said.

Most of Montana’s exported energy goes to Oregon and Washington. With those states maxing out their ability to create wind energy and Montana with an abundance of wind potential, the opportunity to continue to sell clean energy to those states should grow, Maki said.

The closing of a nuclear power plant in California could also open a market for Montana-produced clean energy, she said.

Coal producers took a dim view of the report.

Regulation of coal-produced power will slow the economy, cause job losses across various sectors and increase electricity rates, said Chuck Denowh, spokesman for Count on Coal Montana.

“The Sierra Club’s report is just poorly-executed propaganda,” Denowh said. “It does nothing to take into account the massive job losses Montana will experience as a result of President Obama’s greenhouse gas regulations. If anything, the report just confirms what we’ve been saying all along: Renewable energy isn’t labor-intensive enough to replace the jobs in mining, transportation and electricity-generation that are related to coal.”

A major factor in increasing Montana’s energy exporting is an upgrade of transmission lines in Colstrip. That would open up transmission potential for coal, gas or clean energy depending on market trends, Maki said.

“The transmission lines don’t discriminate based on what type of power is being produced,” she said.

MEIC hopes the clean energy job report, which is the first of its kind for the state, can serve as a resource and calm some fears related to clean energy jobs, Maki said.

Tom Kuglin Independent Record​

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(7) Comments

  1. GreatWhite
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    GreatWhite - June 10, 2014 2:36 pm
    Probably not efficient from Colstrip, no. To many potential variables considering the distance of the line. I'm unsure how they computed that average.

    To be fair with Nuclear, the only events have been man caused to a major degree, either by design, human error or just shoddy workmanship.
  2. AntiXenophobia
    Report Abuse
    AntiXenophobia - June 10, 2014 1:49 pm
    Those 6% numbers are from a national average, which makes me wonder how they calculate such an average. Is it per MW over the wire? Per mile of wire? Per amp per mile? Without seeing that calculation, it is hard to know what that 6% means. Given that selling power to the coast from Colstrip means shipping that power well over 1000 miles to get it down to California, I suspect that Colstrip is not nearly as efficient as 6% loss. Shipping it from Hetch Hetchy down to San Francisco is probably pretty efficient. Shipping it from Colstrip to anywhere is probably not, I guess.

    I think nuclear power is a different animal for sure. You move from a safety plan where you just plan on slowly polluting everything (coal), to a plan where you have rare but catastrophic events like Chernobyl. If you manage the nuclear power properly, those safety issues should hopefully be minimal and you would see less environmental damage due to reactor failure than you do to acid rain and co2 from coal fired plants.
  3. GreatWhite
    Report Abuse
    GreatWhite - June 10, 2014 1:19 pm
    Bird deaths also occur due to fossil fueled plants as well. And other various man caused situations. And they are working to prevent them, and bat deaths as well.


    Here's an interesting wind map...there are a lot of places that could supply dependable wind.


    And this map shows where good energy producing wind happens! (It's at the bottom.)

  4. mtwalker1
    Report Abuse
    mtwalker1 - June 10, 2014 12:11 pm
    I agree with your assessment, we have a inefficient grid system. I've heard
    that the line loss between coalstrip and the coast is more than the delivered amount.

    In regards to nuclear power, all the electrical power plant reactors in the US
    are of varying design which makes them more expensive to design build and operate.

    Naval nuclear propulsion reactors which are mostly of the same design for several reasons, say if a design or material flaw arises, all the other units can be upgraded
    at the same time.
    Small nuclear plants of common design built underground around the country would be a good alternative to coal or gas fired units.
    pollution from just the fuel production is problematic, and would be difficult
    for the public to accept.

    Wind generators are not without their impacts, it's said they kill lots of migratory raptors
    such a the golden eagles...MEIC advocating something that kill endangered species...

  5. GreatWhite
    Report Abuse
    GreatWhite - June 10, 2014 12:00 pm
    I believe they estimate the loss to be around 6-6.5% now days AntiX, with modern materials.



    Nuclear energy is cleaner, but it's safety is very dependent on humans, and human error is inevitable.
  6. AntiXenophobia
    Report Abuse
    AntiXenophobia - June 10, 2014 10:36 am
    Whether it is wind power or coal power, it makes absolutely no sense to generate power in Montana and ship it over the wire to places like California or Washington. I don't have data on this, and would love to see some, but my memory of electricity work in physics classes in college tells me that you are going to lose over half of your electrical power if you ship it that far away on a wire. Heat loss. I think nuclear power makes more sense, but I find myself in the small minority when that topic comes up, but it makes way more sense because you can put a reactor right near where you need power, unlike all these other options, where you have to generate the power in the middle of nowhere due to pollution (coal) or due to wind or water availability.
  7. HelenaJeff
    Report Abuse
    HelenaJeff - June 10, 2014 8:33 am
    Though I believe that clean, renewable energy will create jobs, I dismiss these reports due to these exact groups continued litigation activities. They have slowed transportation through Montana, they have slowed or stopped construction on public lands and they continue to attempt to stop residential growth. It's great they can see the potential, maybe they will decide to help instead of hinder, or maybe they, once again, are simply acting as wolves in sheeps clothing, to obtain help in yet another effort to hinder economic growth in Montana.

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