Electrons, Engineers, and Economics

Could infrastructure investment provide the US with an infusion?

Laura_Sanchez_Editor

In a country increasingly reliant on electrons, today it seems more important than ever to understand the value and complexity of the electric power industry.

Not only does the energy industry form the backbone of our economy—powering businesses, factories, schools, and healthcare—it is the foundation of our communications platforms, as well as the lifeblood of our tech-driven society.

A new report by M.J. Bradley & Associates—Powering America: The Economic and Workforce Contributions of the US Electric Power Industry—underscores the importance of the energy industry in America as a source of fiscal well being and employment.

The report reveals that the electric power industry contributes about $880 billion each year to the economy—about 5% of our total Gross Domestic Product. It also explains that it is the nation’s most capital-intensive industry, investing more than $100 billion each year in projects that help improve our infrastructure, advance technology, and employ millions of people across America.

The report also looks closely at the personnel that power the industry. It profiles individuals in roles such as lineman, generation project manager, hydropower compliance specialist, and demand response technology lead in order to illustrate the diverse array of opportunities the power sector provides. In total, the industry estimates that it supports more than 7 million American jobs—with 2.7 million direct employees and contractors, and another 4.4 million jobs supported indirectly.

The study also predicts that changes in the workforce will take place concurrent with changes in technology. As the energy landscape shifts to accommodate increasing levels of distributed energy resources and as business models adapt, experts also explain that the roles of personnel will also adjust.

“…we are excited about the changes the electric power industry is leading. We are confident that the resources the industry is investing to expand its training pipeline and to recruit the next generation of workers will enable the industry to continue to deliver America’s energy future,” the report concludes.

Furthermore, as Michael J. Bradley, president of M.J. Bradley & Associates explains, “Understanding the industry’s value, economic contributions, and changing nature is crucial to policy decisions related to employment and economic growth.”

Studying the impact of the electric power system seems especially important today, given the current administration’s focus on job growth and infrastructure development. Because the industry’s economic reach spreads throughout the entire American value chain, it seems that infrastructure spending would not only improve the electric power sector, it would positively impact every aspect of society that benefits from energy—which, as the report indicates, is a whole lot.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that infrastructure investment in the electric power industry would have a positive impact elsewhere in the American economy?DE_bug_web

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