Advanced Energy Perspectives

At More than 3 Million Jobs, Advanced Energy is a Big – and Growing – Source of Employment in the U.S.

Posted by Bob Keough and Frank Swigonski

Mar 2, 2017 8:36:50 AM

    

Chuck Fernandez- Lancaster CA 37.5 MW-01.jpg

Chuck Fernandez takes a selfie with the solar array he just installed in Lancaster, Calif. Image courtesy of Mr. Fernandez and NEXTracker.

Last week, eight major business associations across the spectrum commonly known as “clean energy,” including AEE, held a daylong social media event celebrating the employment impact of our collective industries. Under the #CleanEnergyJobs hashtag, more than 900 companies, organizations, and individuals sent out messages, infographics, videos, and photos – including more than a few selfies and team pics – extolling life on the job in clean energy. It was all to amplify a bit of powerful economic news: Based on the latest data from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, clean energy now supports more than 3 million U.S. jobs – equal to the employment provided by retail stores, and twice as many as building construction. We thought this news was worth shouting, if not from the rooftops, at least via Twitter!

Besides AEE, organizers of the #CleanEnergyJobs campaign included American Council on Renewable Energy, AJW (representing Energy Service Companies), Alliance to Save Energy, American Wind Energy Association, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Energy Storage Association, and Solar Energy Industries Association. A sampling of the day’s social media activity can be found here

In January, U.S. DOE published its 2017 Energy and Employment Report, the result of its second annual survey of employers involved in various aspect of energy. In the report, DOE did not offer a definition of “clean energy,” and the trade associations representing different portions of the industry have their own ways of defining what it represents. But the groups all agreed that, in the aggregate, these jobs add up to more than 3 million nationwide. 

When it comes to what technologies, products, and services we consider to be advanced energy, we can get a bit more specific:

  • Nearly 2.2 million workers making buildings, appliances and other products more energy efficient, saving money for families and businesses.
  • More than 650,000 workers involved with advanced electric power generation, including biomass, biogas, fuel cells, geothermal, hydropower, nuclear, combined cycle natural gas, solar, waste-to-energy, and wind.
  • 100,000 workers in advanced grid technologies, including energy storage, and another 100,000 workers in biofuels.
  • 250,000 jobs in advanced transportation, including hybrid, electric, natural gas, and fuel cell vehicles.

In all, that adds up to 3.3 million jobs supported by advanced energy.

A year ago, based on DOE’s first employment survey, we reported that advanced energy supported 2.7 million jobs nationwide. The new numbers and old are not directly comparable, as DOE, working with BW Research Associates, has improved its survey methods, resulting in more accurate – and larger – numbers overall, so the jump cannot be attributed entirely to growth. But this year’s DOE report does document significant growth in some advanced energy jobs, year-over-year: 

  • 133,000 jobs added in energy efficiency
  • Solar employment up 25%
  • 25,000 more wind jobs, now topping 100,000 total
  • 65,000 new jobs in transmission, distribution, and energy storage

What’s more, employers surveyed expect to add jobs this year:

  • 9% projected growth in energy efficiency, for 198,000 more jobs
  • 6% growth expected in transmission, distribution, and storage
  • 7% expansion predicted in electricity generation overall, including advanced energy generation technologies

These jobs are made possible by the growth of markets for these products and services in this country. AEE’s Advanced Energy Now 2016 Market Report found that total U.S. revenue from the wide range of advanced energy goods and services was $200 billion in 2015, more than pharmaceutical manufacturing in this country. Investment over the past 10 years in clean electricity generation has totaled $507 billion, with $59 billion invested last year alone, according to the 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, published by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The wind industry gets American-made turbine parts from more than 500 factories in 43 states. According to GTM Research and SEIA’s preliminary report, the solar industry nearly doubled its previous record by installing 14,626 megawatts of generating capacity in 2016.

More than 3 million jobs supported by the advanced energy industry? That’s just a start.

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Topics: Event

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