Advanced Energy Perspectives

NEWS: Employment Up, Costs Down – That’s the Advanced Energy Way

Posted by Lexie Briggs

May 27, 2016 10:43:04 AM



Image courtesy of AEE member SolarCity.

Not sure why it fell to the International Renewable Energy Agency to tell us this, but the number of people employed by the solar industry in the U.S. has passed oil and gas extraction, as well as coal mining. Also, as reported by Bloomberg, IRENA points out that these solar businesses have grown 12 times faster than overall employment growth in the U.S.


This is in line with our own findings, which go even further, showing that employment in advanced energy overall is even bigger, and growing. As we reported in a blog post earlier this month, the advanced energy industry employs 2.7 million people nationwide: twice as many as construction, significantly more than agriculture and mining, and right on par with grocery stores and supermarkets. Employers say their advanced energy employment grew 10% last year, four times the growth of U.S. employment overall, and they expect to add jobs at a 6% rate in the coming year.

These findings draw on BW Research Partnership’s Energy Employment Index, which is based on a detailed survey of over 20,000 businesses conducted between September and November of 2015. The Index is the basis for the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s first annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report, which was published in March.

The Index is also the basis for state-specific jobs reports, including the AEE Institute’s recent Advanced Energy Jobs in California report. Our friends at the Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance mined the same data to produce their recent Advanced Energy Jobs in Texas report. Between the two, Texas and California account for more than 650,000 jobs in the advanced energy industry, meaning nearly one in four advanced energy employees is located in one of those two states. We know they’re big states, but still...

Booming employment makes sense. Utility Dive reported on a recent report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which shows that all energy capacity added in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2016 was advanced energy: 700 MW in new wind, 500 MW of new solar, 18 MW new natural gas. Somebody’s got to build all that!

Meanwhile, PJM Interconnection, the grid operator covering 13 states and the District of Columbia, held its 2019-2020 capacity auction, and the results surprised analysts. All told, PJM netted 167,306 MW of power, and the clearing price was $100/MW-day for most of the region – down from $164.77 last auction. The reason for the precipitous price drop? You guessed it: advanced energy. All told, 10,348 MW of demand response cleared the auction, as well as 1,515 MW of efficiency. A big slug – 5,000 MW – of new natural gas generation was bid into the market, but solar and wind also had their day, accounting for 335 MW and 969 MW respectively. Both coal and nuclear commitments fell.

“Prices were lower than some analysts had expected and lower than the last year's auction results simply because of market fundamentals of changes in supply and demand,” Stu Bresler, PJM Interconnection’s senior vice president of markets, said in a statement. In other words, a combo of advanced energy resources met the region’s future power needs at lower-than-expected costs. No surprise here.

Finally, in company news, AEE member CLEAResult has partnered up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for a new “Call for Innovation” under the JUMP crowdsourcing initiative – which, if you have to ask, stands for “Join in the discussion, Unveil innovation, Motivate transformation, and Promote technology-to-market.” (Our Illinois state partner, Clean Energy Trust, is involved as well.) The call is for innovative ideas to increase the efficiency of residential buildings. The winner will be awarded $3,000 cash and receive in-kind support from CLEAResult. Do you have a great idea that might result in some serious energy savings? Submit it!

In the meantime, if you want to keep up-to-date on all the latest advanced energy news you need to know, click below to sign up for AEE Weekly, AEE's weekly newsletter highlighting the biggest news every week.

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Topics: News Update


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