Duke Energy is one of the largest power producers in the Western Hemisphere. They produce 35,000 MW of electricity in the USA, plus 4,000 in Latin America. They have virtually every type of power plant: nuclear, coal, gas, hydro, wind, and solar. They also run natural gas distribution systems in two states.
Duke knows energy, and Jim Rogers, their CEO, knows Duke. When Jim Rogers speaks about energy people listen. Last week Mr. Rogers was talking energy and jobs. Jim says Duke’s experience has shown that nuclear energy provides more jobs and higher paying jobs than wind or solar power plants.
“In an operation of a nuclear plant, there [are] .64 jobs per megawatt. The wind business–and we have a very large wind business – is .3 jobs per megawatt. In the solar business – and we’re installing solar panels – it’s about .1. But the difference in the jobs is quite different, because if you’re wiping off a solar panel, it’s sort of a minimum wage type of job, [with] much higher compensation for nuclear engineers and nuclear operators. If our goal is to rebuild the middle class, nuclear plays a key role there, particularly if coal is out of the equation.”
Mr. Roger’s comments made me wonder how many jobs might be created if we were to build new power plants of each type to meet our energy demands. I started with the most recent Energy Outlook provided by the US Government at the Energy Information Administration web site. This report states that 259 GW of new plants will be needed by 2030. The number includes 30 GW to replace aging plants and the rest is for modest energy demand growth.
Multiplying that 259,000 MW times the Duke estimates for the number of people per MW, we get the result (rounded to the nearest 1000):
- New Nuclear: 166,000 jobs
- New Wind: 78,000 jobs
- New Solar: 26,000 jobs
These numbers ignore the 2,000 to 3,000 jobs created building each new nuclear plant during the four year construction process. Building wind and soar would also provide temporary construction jobs. I also did not adjust for the lower capacity factors associated with wind and solar generation. We’ll assume smart grid technologies will enable improvements in wind and solar energy capacity and existing reserve capacity will back up wind and solar. After all, these are the kinds of assumptions that wind and solar proponents make all the time.
In Episode 60 of “This Week in Nuclear” I discussed how every dollar spent building new nuclear plants provides far more energy than either wind or solar. Now we’re discovering that nuclear plants also produce more jobs per MW. Combining these two findings we gain an important insight: every dollar spent on new nuclear plants provides not only more energy, but also more jobs.
It’s not often that we find one solution for two very tough problems, but that’s exactly what we have done: Investing in nuclear energy can provide much needed high paying jobs that can’t be sent overseas, in addition to reliable, clean energy to power our economy.