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Solar industry now employs twice as many Americans as coal? And this is good?

June 7, 2017

By Paul Homewood


It is remarkable how often we hear the claim that “the solar industry now employs twice as many Americans as coal”. And, more often than not, as a cause of celebration.

The latest to make the comparison is Josh Bayliss chief executive officer of Virgin Group, in a free advert article in the Telegraph yesterday:


As we know, many, probably the vast majority, of these jobs are involved with installing solar panels, and therefore will be transitory.

But to the extent that these jobs are permanent, just what does that tell us?

Solar power output in the US was just 9 Mtoe in 2015, 0.4% of total energy consumption. On a pro-rata basis, if the US relied solely on solar, the industry would be employing 650 million people, double the entire population!

In comparison, coal production equated to 455 Mtoe.

I have said this before, but I am at a loss to understand how otherwise intelligent people, like the boss of Virgin, lose all semblance of common sense and reality, whenever climate change is mentioned.

  1. June 7, 2017 10:37 am

    I too am at a loss. Perhaps he is told to make these statements by his Greenblob boss, Richard Brainless.

  2. June 7, 2017 10:53 am

    Virgin has always styled itself as the “peoples whatever (such as airline)”, and what better right-on cause than “the fight against CC”, because “the fight against ever higher electricity bills” has so far failed to gain much traction, partly because LED lights have dampened bill rises, but that will change now that everyone has been forced to buy them.

  3. June 7, 2017 11:12 am

    Reducing productivity by employing more people to produce less is a sure way to destroy a country’s wealth.

  4. June 7, 2017 11:25 am

    The crux of the matter is, of course, the number of jobs per Mwatt hr. produced. I sure that should it be required that all vehicles should henceforth be horse drawn, then we would all be very busy indeed.

    • Old Englander permalink
      June 8, 2017 6:45 am

      Or the reciprocal, MWh per job. Per Mr Bratby, a well-known index of prosperity is the GDP per employee in various sectors. Tourism, for example, is famously low; which is why only poor countries are big on tourism. Let’s see someone report a properly calculated GDP per employee for the solar sector. If there are so may jobs, and so little power, the index won’t be big.

  5. J Vaughan permalink
    June 7, 2017 11:26 am

    The chart shows the red line at 260 vertical axis in 2016. The title says “Employment….in thousands”. That is 260k, not 2.6million?

    • June 7, 2017 3:40 pm

      Yes, other sources seem to confirm 260,000.

      I’m not sure what that says about Virgin’s accounting systems!!

      • John Vaughan permalink
        June 7, 2017 7:09 pm

        Maybe the virgin’s accounting system is a bit stained.

  6. sean2829 permalink
    June 7, 2017 11:27 am

    Look up the average pay of solar installer vs. coal miner. Solar works earn $13-20/hr ($16/hr or $32K per year) whereas coal miners earn $69K/yr. Those solar workers doing temporary work will earn so little that they probably won’t mind moving on when the subsidized installation work dries up.

  7. martinbrumby permalink
    June 7, 2017 11:49 am

    I note everyone is keeping very quiet about some of the H&S and Insurance issues surrounding solar panels, the problems with fire crews attending house fires when there are panels on the roof and the sun is shining, so electricity is being produced.

    Obviously, all these problems are capable of being managed to some extent.

    But like the risks involved with wind turbines (including erection, maintenance and operation), these problems are largely unpublicised, hidden from view.

    How many fatalities have there been? How many houses have suffered major damage or are unsaleable without paying for proper structural analysis of alterations to the roof? How many of the virtue signallers with panels on their roof are confident that their insurers will cough up if there is a claim?

    Obviously, deep coal mining is inherently more hazardous (although maintenance of off shore turbines in Winter must be very exciting). But both Big Wind & Big Solar must be at least an order of magnitude worse than Fracking, notwithstanding all the shroud waving that our Green chums incessantly promote about the latter.

    Some statistics from HSE would be interesting. I wonder if they are available?

  8. HotScot permalink
    June 7, 2017 11:50 am

    I read somewhere that it takes 70 renewables workers to produce the same energy as 1 (one) coal worker. Im not sure of the accuracy nor the specifics as I neglected to keep the link.

    If it is the case, the AGW scam is just another lefty job creation project.

  9. Joe Public permalink
    June 7, 2017 12:35 pm

    2016 annual comparisons:

    Coal workers produced 14.578 Quadrillion Btu; twice as many solar workers produced 0.587 Quads

    Click to access sec1_5.pdf

    The coal workers’ productivity resulted in 49.64x the amount of energy.

  10. Gerry, England permalink
    June 7, 2017 12:42 pm

    And in the UK they are always moaning that we have lower productivity than other countries. The concern would also be the number of jobs that are destroyed by green jobs. Here in the UK it used to be 3.4 – I wonder if it is still the same?

  11. Sheri permalink
    June 7, 2017 1:10 pm

    This is somewhat tied to the Chamber of Commerce of the USA, whose theory is “any job is a good job”. They count only numbers, never productivity. If you employ 20 people at $25 an hour and produce two items a year, you are a valuable company. If you employ 2000 people at $20 an hour and produce millions of products, you have the same value. It’s about numbers. People in the USA are trained that the number of workers is all that counts.

    Theoretically, as noted by others, we would have full employment if we did away with much of the mechanization of work. In China, they used to build roads by hand. We could do much of the work here the same way. All it requires is a law requiring everyone to work or be jailed (otherwise, no one will take the jobs), complete absence of welfare and the will to carry this out. No one actually thinks about that. Nor do they consider that 40 people to do the work of 5 is not economically viable without everyone paying more taxes to subsidize the 35 non-producing workers.

  12. Curious George permalink
    June 7, 2017 2:00 pm

    With apology to Milton Friedman, coal workers use shovels to make energy. Solar workers use spoons. Solar is surely jobs-rich.

  13. tom0mason permalink
    June 7, 2017 2:13 pm

    Maybe Josh Bayliss, the chief executive officer of Virgin Group, could come up with the Virgin Treadmill Generator and we could reach 100% employment for all 24/7/365.

    The future’s bright …


    …………………..The future is Virgin on the ridiculous...

  14. John Peter permalink
    June 7, 2017 2:27 pm

    The foundation of our prosperity is the output per hour per person leading to a high GDP. Solar employees having low wages and low output in value per hour worked and as a result of the work provided will lead us back to poverty. Adding subsidies to this will just worsen situation. Bayliss should know that from his work. If that is how he thinks from 09.00 to 17.00 then Virgin is doomed.

  15. Athelstan permalink
    June 7, 2017 2:35 pm

    Solar energy and…………………………. jobs?

    Is it for real……………………..

    The green blob and financial credibility.

    Caroline Lucas and comprehension of atmospheric physics.

    Abbopotamus and Arithmetic.

    Michael E. Mann and integrity.

    Bob Ward and honest appraisal.

    Whirlygig towers are the answer to our energy requirements.

    ……………………………..Go figure.

  16. June 7, 2017 2:35 pm

    Here’s link to an interesting discussion of the ratio of coal workers to solar workers.

  17. Tom O permalink
    June 7, 2017 2:51 pm

    When you folks finally come around to understanding that this transition to high cost energy has nothing to do with what it does to the economy but what it does to the population, then you will finally understand why powerful and financially successful people are not concerned.

    Yes, the economy will crash, but their real wealth will be in land and resources, not in manufacturing or services. When the population shrinks, they will get more of what has real value, and finally, when it is low enough, they will use their wealth to regenerate the economy in the image that THEY want, not the image that the people need. Think of medieval lords on steroids, if you will, with all the modern benefits of the current civilization available for THEM, not the rest of the world.

    This is the vision that drives what is going on in the energy realm, not saving the world, gaining power, or world government. Essentially, they already OWN most governments, so they have all the power of a world government, but they want to get rid of the useless consumers. “Renewable, transient energy” in a cooling world is their “weapon of mass extinction.”

  18. June 7, 2017 3:24 pm

    Employing as few workers as possible – within reason – should be an ongoing objective of any efficient organisation.

  19. June 7, 2017 4:08 pm

    Imagine how many more workers there would be in the news industry if we got rid of the printing press.

  20. Reasonable Skeptic permalink
    June 7, 2017 4:22 pm

    If McDonalds doubles it’s staff but produces the same number of Big Macs will the price of the Big Mac increase or decrease. Should we celebrate McDonalds for job creation of chastise them for inefficiency.

    Of course, if they were in a competitive market they would go out of business.

  21. Graeme No.3 permalink
    June 7, 2017 11:01 pm

    The essence of this flow of claims is to
    a) scare the politicians that stopping subsidies will cause mass unemployment
    b) convince the gullible that solar is creating more employment.
    c) convince the gullible that solar will be a huge industry soon.

    • dave permalink
      June 8, 2017 6:51 am

      It is a beautiful world – when you can’t see the fools:

      • Athelstan permalink
        June 8, 2017 7:34 am

        Our beautiful blue and green planet.

        did I say ‘green’?

        Avarice and corruption two of mankind’s most common failings and the end result is always, it is the innocents who suffer and at the last, it is mostly the innocents who are murdered.

        One way or another, the green agenda is out to get you and it will – if we let it.

  22. AndyG55 permalink
    June 8, 2017 7:39 am

    Wages are expensive.. so either they are very low paid positions or the wages have to be reflected in the cost.

    • Athelstan permalink
      June 8, 2017 9:39 am

      transient jobs, for low skilled guys, useful statistics for the alarmist/nutters of green including this cultural Marxist o’barmy smooching, dick head

      Just hark at it, such supreme arrogance, I find myself astonished – this guy regards himself as thoroughly ‘illuminated’ and showboats on it, what a tosser.

  23. June 8, 2017 11:15 am

    Miners are going back to work in WV. A brand new mine is opening up in Canonsburg, PA just up the road a few miles from me.

    President Trump gave a speech yesterday in Cincinnati, OH to a lot of industrial/union people with the Ohio River as a backdrop. There was a huge barge loaded with coal on the river behind him.

  24. 4TimesAYear permalink
    June 9, 2017 3:03 am

    Reblogged this on 4timesayear's Blog.

  25. June 9, 2017 7:21 pm

    “…Energy is the lifeblood of the economy.

    The primary objective of the energy sector is to supply cost-effective energy to the broader economy, allowing it to grow and increase the standard of living of its citizens.

    Artificially pumping up employment in the energy sector per se – and thereby driving down productivity, while driving up costs to the broader economy – is counterproductive to overall net job creation and economic growth…”:

  26. June 11, 2017 4:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

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