New Report: Cleaning and Modernizing U.S. Power Plant Investments Will Create U.S. Job Growth

February 10, 2011

Photo of smokestacks from Fast Company, featuring Flickr user, Uwe Hermann

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed air pollution rules for the electric power sector will provide economic benefits and jobs across much of the United States, especially in the next five years, states a new report from the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The report, “New Jobs-Cleaner Air: Employment Effects under Planned Changes to EPA’s Air Pollution Rules,” was released by Boston-based Ceres at the 2011 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference. The PERI author, Dr. James Heintz, details the jobs created through investments in pollution controls, new plant construction, and the retirement of older, less efficient coal plants as the country transitions to a cleaner, modernized generation fleet under new EPA clean air standards.

In reviewing the report, Ceres points to these important considerations:

  • The power sector will invest almost $200 billion total in capital improvements over the next five years, total employment created by these capital investments is estimated at 1.46 million jobs, or about 290,000 jobs on average in each of the next five years.
  • Installing modern pollution controls and building new power plants will create many skilled, high-paying installation, construction and professional jobs, as well as jobs at companies that manufacture pollution controls and other required construction/maintenance equipment.
  • States that will see the biggest job gains from this construction activity include Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, North Carolina and Indiana.

“Americans can expect significant economic gains from implementing these new EPA rules in the form of highly-skilled, well-paying jobs that will help us clean up and modernize the nation’s power plant fleet,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres. “Hundreds of thousands of new jobs will be created in each of the next five years – a welcome boost as the country recovers from a severe economic downturn.”

Ceres is a leading coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of 98 investors with $9.5 trillion of collective assets focused on the business impacts of climate change.

The study concludes that a majority of these new jobs will be associated with “…installation, design and construction of pollution controls and construction of new generation capacity.”

Ceres cites studies that find approximately 35 gigawatts of coal-fired generation can be retired in the Eastern Interconnection by 2015. It says many of these plants “are already economically challenged” by low natural gas prices and reduced electricity demand and might conceivably be retired even without the proposed EPA rules.

Ceres writes that the EPA has demonstrated how beneficial the proposed Clean Air Transport Rule – alone – will be to the economy. According to the EPA, the proposed rule will yield more than $120 to $290 billion in annual health and welfare benefits in 2014, including the value of avoiding 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths.

Visit Ceres here to download a copy of the report.

Photo & Fast Company article credits here.



Glenn Meyers

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.