The year 2015 is starting out with signs that the U.S. economy is picking up steam. Recent reports show strong economic growth in 2014 and 3 million jobs created – the most since 1999. The advanced energy industry has played a role in this return to prosperity. Thanks to a number of recent reports, we can now say with certainty that advanced energy is a significant job creator.
Over the past year, a bumper crop of surveys and studies – by state agencies, by our AEE Institute, and by our state partner organizations – documented the jobs gained and retained by the advanced energy industry state by state.
The states enjoying the greatest job benefits are those that have made advanced energy a priority in state policy. California has long been the leader in forward-looking energy policy. It has the jobs to show for it: more than 431,000 advanced energy jobs, 2.4 percent of the state’s workforce, half-again as many as are employed in the state’s marquee motion picture, radio, and television sector, according to AEE Institute’s California Advanced Energy Employment Survey. California is well on its way to more than half a million people employed in the advanced energy industry, with employers reporting plans to hire at a 17 percent clip in the coming year.
Massachusetts is another leader in policies to encourage the growth of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other advanced energy technologies. After a 10 percent jump in jobs in the past year, to over 88,000, Massachusetts now matches California in the percentage of its workforce employed in advanced energy. Massachusetts has been tracking this industry longer than most. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center puts out an annual report that has documented the industry’s steady growth: 47 percent increase in employment since 2010. With Massachusetts employers also expecting to expand over the coming year, the Bay State’s advanced energy employment should be over 100,000 jobs by the end of this year.
Vermont, another New England stalwart in energy efficiency and renewable energy – including solar, biomass, biofuels, and methane (“cow power”) – is the only state studied to date that has a higher proportion of its workforce engaged in advanced energy than California and Massachusetts: 4.3 percent.
Another state where the growth of advanced energy has been tracked for some time is North Carolina. Our state partner, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, has conducted an annual census of the industry since 2008. “North Carolina’s clean energy industry has added jobs each of the past six years, partially mitigating what would have been even greater employment losses across North Carolina and the nation during the Great Recession,” the 2013 North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census concludes. In this report, NCSEA found that employment was up 20 percent last year. The 570 firms responding to the census (out of 1,100 firms identified as part of the industry) reported employment of 18,404 and gross revenue of $3.6 billion.
In South Carolina, the South Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance released its second annual industry census, which showed clean energy jobs up 3.6 percent, to 17,713, with solar, energy efficiency, and biomass having the largest employment concentrations.
Some states have just had their advanced energy employment documented for the first time. Iowa has long been known for wind energy and biofuels. But now, thanks to the AEE Institute’s Iowa Advanced Energy Employment Survey, we know that Iowa has a total of 22,643 workers in advanced energy, nearly half of them (10,888) delivering energy efficiency goods and services.
The results of the first employment survey in Illinois, commissioned by another AEE state partner, the Clean Energy Trust, were both impressive and worrisome. CET’s Clean Jobs Illinois report placed advanced energy jobs at 98,875 workers in 2013 – enough to fill Soldier Field 1½ times – and expected to grow 9 percent by the end of 2014, to more than 100,000 employees. At 1.9 percent of the total workforce, Illinois clean energy employment is not far behind California and Massachusetts (2.4 percent). The state experienced big growth in alternative transportation (21 percent) and solid growth (3 percent) in energy efficiency, from 2012 to 2013. But employment declined slightly (0.2 percent) in renewable energy, due to ongoing uncertainty around that state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Not surprisingly, employers cited maintaining a strong RPS as their top policy priority for growing their businesses in Illinois.
Finally, two AEE state partners facing important junctures in state policy are producing updates showing greater advanced energy employment than previously identified. In 2012, the AEE Institute developed initial job estimates for the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy. These counts of 2010 jobs showed significant employment: 11,000 in Arkansas – as many jobs as in the hotel and motel industry in that state – and 25,400 in Ohio – as much as in agriculture/forestry and mining combined.
Due to limitations in the available data, however, we knew these were very conservative estimates of the employment impact of advanced energy in those states, and we are now finding out just how conservative.
AAEA has just released a new study, based on an extensive survey of employers, that shows that advanced energy is responsible for 16,000 direct jobs in Arkansas and revenue of $1.7 billion. That study also estimated an additional 9,300 workers and $1.1 billion in output from related industries. All told, the employment impact of advanced energy and related industries totals over 25,000 jobs in Arkansas – more than computer and mathematical occupations (20,000) and protective services (23,000) and closing the gap with health care support occupations (35,000), according to state figures. Meanwhile, Ohio Advanced Energy Economy is deep into an employment survey of its own, which will no doubt show that advanced energy accounts for far more than 25,000 jobs in the Buckeye State. Stay tuned for that.
With a new governor taking office in Arkansas, and the Ohio legislature considering the future of energy policy following last year’s freeze of that state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, it’s vital that policymakers understand the extent of advanced energy’s contribution to the economy of their states.
At AEE, we are dedicated to a vision of a prosperous world running on secure, clean, affordable energy. That is the advanced energy promise. We are now seeing that vision of prosperity with advanced energy become a reality, state by state, and job by job. We at AEE and our state partners look forward to working with state policymakers to keep the momentum going.