Media briefs

Media brief: The impact of clean stimulus measures on the U.S. economy following the 2008 downturn

Through media briefs, we aim to provide journalists with useful factual and contextual information related to Canada’s clean energy transition. Please use this as a resource, and let us know if there are any topics that you would like to see for future media briefs. 

As Canada’s COVID-19 lockdown continues, conversations are shifting toward the federal government’s plans for economic recovery. While this downturn is unprecedented in cause and nature, there are still lessons to be taken from previous economic recovery and stimulus measures. 

Following the 2008 financial crisis, countries around the world put together stimulus packages with varying emphasis on clean energy. The U.S. under President Barack Obama was one of the largest clean energy spenders, second only to China,apportioning US$112 billion to its clean-energy-focussed stimulus. By contrast, Canada spent only US$3 billion. 

Two weeks ago, Clean Energy Canada and 11 clean energy sector industry associations and organizations sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau detailing the benefits of employing clean-energy-focussed stimulus measures. Below is a summary of measures the U.S. used following the 2008 downturn and their subsequent impact on jobs, the economy and climate change.


Job creation and retention

  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, introduced in early 2009, increased GDP 2% to 3% above what it would have been and supported over 6 million job-years (a full-time job for one year) from 2009 to 2012.
  • It also created a significant number of jobs in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors in a short period of time. The clean-energy-related programs, which made up roughly one eighth of total spending, supported 900,000 job-years from 2009 to 2015. As of 2019, there were 3.4 millionpeople in the U.S. working in the clean energy sector. Jobs spanned industries such as , renewable energy, energy efficiency, hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as advanced grid and energy storage. 
  • The measures were particularly successful at creating employment for workers from sectors that saw big job losses. Building retrofits and solar panel installation programs re-employed construction workers laid off during the 2007-2008 housing crash. 
  • Following this, wind and solar were some the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. and, in 2019, employed 350,000 Americans

Investment in and viability of key clean technologies

  • The clean-energy-related investments made following the financial crisis leveraged about $150 billion in private capital to match government investments in electric vehicles, energy efficiency, wind, biomass and other technologies. 
  • The overnight capital cost of utility-scale photovoltaic systems halved between 2008 and 2014. Battery costs for electric vehicles decreased by over two-thirds in that same time period. And these prices continue to fall. In many parts of the U.S., including California and Texas, solar and wind power is cheaper than natural gas and coal

Impact on emissions

  • Since 2008, U.S. wind generation has tripled and solar generation has increased over 80 times. In 2020, renewable energy will account for 21% of total electricity used in the U.S., up from 9% in 2005. The increasing role renewables play in the U.S. power grid has contributed to cutting carbon pollution in the power sector by 28% since 2005.
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