A worker builds a Tesla in a California factory.
In the news this week: Jobs. Longtime readers of Advanced Energy Perspectives will know that this is not a new story, but a years-long trend of growing employment for everyday Americans in advanced energy industry jobs. This week we saw stories of jobs growth in Indiana, rust belt New York, and nationwide. Plus, as more and more Fortune 100 and 500 companies make commitments to advanced energy, states can put policies in place to ensure companies site advanced energy projects there, leading to greater employment across the country.
In the recent coverage of Carrier’s 800 jobs not getting exported to Mexico, the media lost sight of something important: Indiana’s advanced energy economy is responsible for nearly 48,000 jobs in the state. That’s nearly 2% of the Indiana workforce – one out of every 50 workers.
In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, Greg Ballard, the Republican former mayor of Indianapolis, and Graham Richard, CEO of AEE and the Democratic former mayor of Ft. Wayne, pointed out this major growth sector in Indiana. Employment in the advanced energy industry is “more than those in machinery manufacturing (43,000), nearly twice the 25,000 jobs at colleges and universities, and approaching the 60,000 in auto parts manufacturing,” the former Indiana mayors write. Indiana employers expect to add 900 more advanced energy jobs before yearend.
Moreover, Indiana’s advanced energy employment illustrates a nationwide trend: “We are in the midst of a major transformation in the advanced energy sector that has now created more than 2.7 million jobs,” the mayors write. Just this week, a report released by AEE member E4TheFuture and E2 found that energy efficiency is a massive U.S. employment sector, with 1.9 million jobs nationwide. The report, “Efficiency Jobs in America,” found that each and every state has thousands of employees in the energy efficiency.
The top 10 states for energy employment has a few surprises: California, of course, tops the list (our report released earlier this year found energy efficiency represents 63% of the more than half million advanced energy jobs in California), but there are more than 105,000 efficiency workers in the state of Florida, nearly 90,000 in Illinois, nearly 89,000 in Massachusetts, and more than 78,000 in Ohio. Efficiency jobs look like a lot of different things, everything from construction to HVAC to the manufacture and installation of energy efficient appliances.
Meanwhile, in Buffalo, N.Y., AEE member SolarCity is beginning its hunt for factory workers. The Buffalo News reports that the company, whose Gigafactory is set to begin production next year, is hiring its first wave of production employees. The company already has about 40 permanent employees in Buffalo, mostly in administrative staff, and is looking to add manufacturing specialists, shipping and receiving clerks, and material handlers.
Construction is nearly complete at the facility, and SolarCity expects to start installing production equipment in the factory early next year. Once it is fully operational, the factory will be the largest solar panel producer in the Western Hemisphere. SolarCity also recently received shareholder approval to merge with Tesla Motors.
All of which suggests there may be something to learn from advanced energy’s most high-profile entrepreneur. In the DealBook section of the New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin puts it this way: “Want to Bring Back Jobs, Mr. President-Elect? Call Elon Musk.”
“Mr. Musk, 45, is arguably the one person in the nation more responsible than anyone else for generating a vision for the re-emergence of manufacturing in the United States en masse,” Sorkin writes. Consider the numbers: The Buffalo SolarCity Gigafactory is expected to create 3,000 jobs in the region, and the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada is expected to employ 6,500 people by 2020. Heck, Musk even coined the term Gigafactory. The future of good manufacturing jobs is advanced energy, plain and simple.
Finally, as we reported earlier this week, a new market brief out from AEE points to another growing trend, this one all the way at the top. Corporate America is catching on that advanced energy is valuable to their bottom line, as 71 of Fortune 100 companies have adopted commitments that, by and large, will be fulfilled with advanced energy technologies and services. The most recent example of this is Google, which announced this week that it would reach its 100% renewable energy target in 2017.
More and more, states looking to attract employment and investment from major corporations would do well to work on being able to help them meet their energy commitments rather than being a hindrance. A new report from the Center for New Energy Economy explains that states may resolve challenges early on by accounting for corporate targets during the utility planning process.
“Utilities have been working with their large corporate customers for years to ensure good outcomes under demand-side management programs, and there’s no reason this success can’t translate to renewable procurement,” said Jeff Lyng, senior policy advisor at CNEE. States and utilities demonstrating willingness to work with corporate buyers are much more likely to attract investment and employment.
It’s clear that the advancement of America’s energy sector is already underway, and with it comes major economic and employment opportunities. Many of these jobs can’t be outsourced: wind turbine technicians, for instance, or solar panel installers. Energy efficiency experts work within buildings and with contractors to make sure their projects aren’t wasting energy. With all this economic opportunity, there’s also a danger in missing out. States that don’t have policies in place to capture these benefits of a growing advanced energy economy may be left behind. File under: Help Wanted.
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