Employment in the Energy Efficiency and Renewables Sectors Track Upward

by | Jan 25, 2017

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energy manage solarThe numbers are in and the results are clear: Energy efficiency is a growing source of employment.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) released its second annual analysis on employment in the energy industry. The 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (SEER) found that 14 percent of the nation’s job growth was in the traditional energy and energy efficiency categories. In all, 6.4 million Americans worked in the segment last year, a 300,000 job increase over 2015.

Energy efficiency, the smaller of the two segments, fared well. The report found that it represents 2.2 million – 133,000 – jobs. Energy transmission, distribution and storage created 65,000 jobs. Wind and solar added 25,000 and 73,000 jobs, respectively. Solar added 25 percent to its workforce and the wind segment employment grew to 102,000 people. Finally, the report found that about 32 percent of the 6.5 million people in the construction industry worked on “energy or building energy efficiency projects.”

Another job analysis – this one from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and E4TheFuture – was released last month. It was bullish on energy efficiency jobs. From the introduction:

California, Florida, Massachusetts and Illinois, which rank at the top of this employment analysis, together account for over half a million clean energy jobs involving energy efficiency. Other states, such as Texas and Pennsylvania, are seeing strong energy efficiency employment even as they host an oil-and-gas fracking boom. But there’s uneven progress among them all in promoting smarter energy use policies—from strong building codes to transportation standards to utility programs that help customers save on their bills—that will feed a thriving industry and support energy efficiency employment.

The report is long and goes into great detail. The bottom line is that it takes a tremendous number of people working at different levels and in different related fields to implement clean energy and energy efficiency.

Job creation, of course, is a vitally important area. An example of the tension at the local level is illustrated by this editorial in the Journal Gazette, a news site in Fort Wayne, IN. The write says that legislators are not being aggressive enough in energy efficiency and clean energy because they are looking backwards to the coal industry and traditional sources of electricity. This won’t work in the new age, the editorial says. Coal workers should be retrained and the state should catch up by encouraging energy efficiency and renewables. Jobs will follow.

Energy managers should understand that the training and expertise they are gaining today could lead to jobs elsewhere in the sector. It is uncertain what path the Trump administration will take. The sense is, however, that growth will be as dependent upon state and local laws as it is on activities in Washington.

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