Labor Day 2022 is like none other for the advanced energy industry. It arrives after two years of COVID-related retrenchment and recovery and nearly a year of policy upheaval at the federal level, with threats of solar trade restrictions and climate and clean energy legislation seemingly stalled. Then, last month, came the Inflation Reduction Act which, when combined with the smaller but, in retrospect, complementary Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act a year earlier, provides $444 billion for investment in advanced energy. That direct investment of federal dollars will, we estimate, attract $1.2 trillion in private investment, for a total boost of $2.8 trillion for the U.S. economy. And that means one more big thing: jobs.
First, let’s take a look at where we are in advanced energy employment. We’ve been tracking advanced energy jobs in the U.S. since 2015, using data collected and analyzed by BW Research Partnership for the annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report, published at first by the U.S. Department of Energy, then by the National Association of State Energy Officials and Energy Futures Initiative for four years, and now by DOE once again. There have been changes in data collection over that time, but the data going back five years shows a clear pattern.
What we can see is steady growth from 2017 to 2019 – in both years, advanced energy jobs grew faster than U.S. jobs overall – followed by sharp decline in the first COVID year of 2020, then strong recovery in 2021, though not yet restoring advanced energy employment to the 2019 level.
AEE’s new Advanced Energy Employment Fact Sheet tells the tale of 2021, and it’s a good one.
U.S. advanced energy employment grew 4.8% from 2020 to 2021, faster than overall U.S. job growth of 2.8%, adding 155,000 jobs. At 3.4 million U.S. workers, advanced energy provides more jobs than Food and Beverage Stores and 2 million more than the Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas industries combined. There was year-to-year growth in every one of the five industry segments we track – Energy Efficiency, Advanced Electricity Generation, Advanced Vehicles, Advanced Grid & Energy Storage, and Advanced Fuels – but only Advanced Vehicles set a new employment record, driven by 28% growth in Electric Vehicle (EV) jobs.
We see a similar story in the employment fact sheets we have produced for 12 states this year: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
In all 12 states, advanced energy employment grew from 2020 to 2021, but in none did it reach the 2019 peak. Advanced energy saw the strongest job growth in New Mexico (8.2%), Indiana (6.9%), Texas (6.8%), Florida (5.8%), and Pennsylvania (5.7%). Growth was slowest in Nevada (3.8%), which was also the only one of these states where overall job growth outpaced advanced energy.
Almost everywhere saw dramatic growth in EV jobs, ranging from 25% in New York to 32% in Colorado, Illinois, and Texas. Solar saw strong job growth in Texas (14%), Virginia and Pennsylvania (both 12%), Florida and Illinois (both 10%). Energy Storage logged double-digit growth in Virginia (12%) and Florida (13%).
One striking result from the survey underlying this data was the level of caution about the future expressed by advanced energy employers in 2021. Nationally, employers expected to add 2.1% jobs over the coming year, slower growth than they experienced in the past year. The same was true in the states: In not one of our 12 states did employers expect to grow as fast in 2022 as in 2021. Optimism being in short supply likely reflects the risks (solar tariff investigation) and uncertainties (the clean energy package then hung up in Congress) weighing on employers’ minds.
That is about to change. With a historic federal commitment to clean energy investment, advanced energy jobs are poised to take off. Our preliminary analysis estimates 23 million job-years of advanced energy employment to be generated by IRA and IIJA, in a mix of permanent positions and short-term construction and installation jobs. On the cusp of unprecedented growth, the advanced energy industry is ready to get to work – and put Americans to work.
And that makes for a happy Labor Day indeed!