Net Zero buildings can spark a jobs bonanza, study finds

Millions of jobs can be created in Europe and the United States by adopting clean energy technologies in new and retrofitted buildings, a study has found.

Air heat pump illustration
Air heat pump illustration - AdobeStock/Studio Harmony

In the study, Schneider Electric and Boston University found that over two million new jobs and up to 141 million additional job years can be created in Europe and the United States by adopting clean energy technologies in new and retrofitted buildings. In total, 247,000 of those jobs would be in the UK.

The results come from a research collaboration between the Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability (IGS) and the Schneider Electric Sustainability Research Institute (SRI). Their findings are detailed in an open access paper published in The Electricity Journal.

Taking a micro-scale view, the study estimated the global employment outcomes for low-carbon building archetypes spanning residential, hospital, hotel, office, retail, and education in regions of North America, Europe and Asia.

The data focused specifically on the potential around deploying rooftop solar panels, heat pumps, and energy storage batteries for self-produced (or prosumer) renewable energy.

“It is increasingly clear that, thanks to modern technologies, it is now feasible to rapidly transition buildings to net-zero,” said Vincent Petit, senior vice president of Climate and Energy Transition Research at Schneider Electric and head of the SRI. “What we often do not realise is that such a transition comes with significant socioeconomic benefits. This research is another demonstration of this fact.”

According to the study, job creation potential depends on the region and type of building. For residential buildings, approximately 0.05 jobs can be created per building. For commercial buildings, it ranges between 0.3 and 4.7 jobs each. Due to the number of combined residential and commercial buildings, the job creation potential surpasses millions.


Europe envisions substantial job creation, with specific figures indicating potential workforce growth in several key countries. France could potentially generate 295,000 jobs, followed by Germany with 257,000 jobs, Italy with 252,000 jobs, the UK with 247,000 jobs, Spain with 212,000 jobs, and the Netherlands with 66,000 jobs.  

Significant job creation is anticipated across various regions of the United States with the West region with 182,000 potential jobs created, while the Midwest is projected to see an increase of 18,900 jobs. In the Northeast, 123,000 jobs are anticipated, and the South and Southeast regions are poised for substantial growth, with an estimated 319,000 jobs. 

The greatest job creation potential is in using heat pumps for large buildings and battery storage in regions and building types with surplus solar energy. For heat pumps, solar PV, and batteries, the largest share of job years comes from construction and installation. 

The research expands on two recent findings from the SRI that demonstrated over 60 per cent carbon emissions reduction can also be achieved when implementing these low-carbon solutions and up to 70 per cent when deploying digital building and power management solutions in existing office buildings. 

“Employment is often a polarising topic at the centre of the transition to a net-zero economy, mired in uncertainty about emerging opportunities in green energy,” said Benjamin Sovacool, director, Boston University Institute for Global Sustainability and Professor, Earth & Environment, College of Arts & Sciences. “This study brings greater detail to the sizable potential for new jobs created by low-carbon buildings, a compelling co-benefit of decarbonisation that could have the power to ease social and economic concerns and positively shape climate policy.”