Add proponents of the smart grid to the list of green technology backers promising that a big federal investment will lead to a boom in "green" jobs.
That's the word out from IBM and the GridWise Alliance trade group on Tuesday. Both have studies that show a multi-billion investment in the smart grid – a transmission grid upgraded with technologies that will allow utilities and their customers to track and manage power use to improve efficiency – will yield hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
According to a study released Tuesday by GridWise Alliance member KEMA Inc., a $16 billion federal investment in "smart incentives" over the next four years would lead to $64 billion in smart grid-related projects and 280,000 new jobs.
Among the new jobs would be about 48,300 new utility positions, which would balance out the estimated 11,400 utility positions like meter readers that would be lost as smart meters made those jobs obsolete. Contractors would see job growth of 19,000 or so, the study added.
But the biggest growth would come in direct and indirect suppliers of smart grid equipment and services, the study said – about 117,700 jobs for direct suppliers to utilities of equipment like smart meters and services like demand response management, and another 79,300 jobs for companies supplying those direct suppliers.
Most of the projects connected to those job growth projections are already underway or being planned and awaiting regulatory approval, the study said (see Smart Meter Installations Grow Nearly Fivefold and The Year in Smart Grid).
But a multi-billion federal investment would accelerate that job growth, leading to 150,000 new jobs by the end of this year alone, the study said.
And while many of those jobs would involve construction and other temporary positions, KEMA estimated that about 140,000 would remain as permanent jobs beyond the four-year timeframe of the study.
The 70-member GridWise Alliance is made up of major utilities and technology powerhouses, like Cisco Systems, Google, General Electric, Hewlett Packard and SAP, as well as makers of smart meters, demand response systems and a host of smart grid devices and services.
IBM – itself a member of the GridWise Alliance – on Tuesday touted its own study that shows a $50 billion investment in smart grid deployment over the next five years, or $10 billion per year, will lead to 239,000 new jobs.
Additionally, "Building the smart grid will spur a host of innovative new products and services from hybrid plug-in electric vehicles to smart appliances to more investment in renewable energy," Christopher G. Caine, vice president of IBM Government Programs, said in a Monday blog discussing the study.
IBM has been making a push into smart grid services, through deals with American Electric Power and France's EDF to work on research and demonstration projects (see IBM Snags Another Smart Grid Deal). Its investment and job growth projections were provided to the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama, who asked for recommendations for the effects of investments in smart grid, broadband infrastructure and healthcare infrastructure.
The Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (DRSC), another smart grid trade group that shares many of the same members as the GridWise Alliance, has already asked the federal government for incentives, including a tax credit for the energy consumption that's reduced through smart grid-related projects (see Smart Grid Coalition Seeks Tax Breaks for Negawatts).
Smart grid backers aren't the only green technology companies pushing the federal government for money to boost job growth, of course. A whole host of industries, from solar and biofuel companies to automakers promising more fuel-efficient and electric-powered cars, are tying job growth projections to their requests for federal largesse (see What the Green Industry Wants From Obama).
The Obama campaign did propose large-scale investment in smart grid technology as part of its overall energy plan, partly as a way to better integrate renewable energy sources like wind and solar power into the national grid.