Move over, California, there’s another trailblazer in the West making its mark as an advanced energy success story. Through new market opportunity and steady, sustained job growth, Colorado is seeing the fruits of its policy leadership: advanced energy job growth of 4% last year, double the state’s overall employment gains, for a total that exceeds hospitals and doubles extractive industries like mining, oil, and gas. All over the state, Coloradans are making a living making the way we produce and use energy cleaner, more efficient, and cheaper. California may be bigger, and may have gotten there first, but Colorado is giving the Golden State a run for its money.
There’s a lot going on in Colorado. Grand Junction is all but set to headquarter the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Colorado also had the honor of hosting the first field hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The state is also in the running to house the new U.S. Space Command headquarters. The state’s rising national profile is not a matter of happenstance but a testament to the credibility the state has garnered for innovation and bold, economically sensible policy that delivers results in the Mountain West.
That’s certainly the case in advanced energy. According to AEE’s new employment fact sheet, advanced energy puts more than 65,000 Coloradans to work, up 4% from a year ago. This high-opportunity, skilled workforce is engaged with the best available technologies and services transforming the way we meet our energy and transportation needs. Relative to other big employers in the state, this strong, homegrown energy workforce outnumbers hospitals and exceeds jobs in oil, mining, and gas extraction twofold.
What’s more, Colorado’s advanced energy industry is outpacing national growth in a few regards. The Centennial State’s advanced energy workforce grew 4% last year, exceeding nationwide growth by a narrow margin. But in advanced vehicle jobs, Colorado matched California – famously the country’s largest EV market – in job growth, at 22%, well above the national average of 15%. With electric vehicles (EVs) taking hold, the auto market in Colorado is being transformed, from manufacture to sales to maintenance (which, for EVs, requires separate certification). After advanced vehicles, energy efficiency jobs – already the largest source of advanced energy jobs – grew at the fastest rate: 7%, more than double the national average of 3%. The biggest employment center in advanced energy – here, as elsewhere – is in making our homes, offices, and industries more energy efficient.
Leaving aside national comparisons, Colorado is enjoying advanced energy job growth within its own four corners. Denver County, followed by Arapahoe County, leads the pack in total advanced energy jobs. But advanced energy jobs are on the rise throughout the state, including rural districts and the Western Slope.
Larimer, Weld, Pueblo, and Adams counties, all experienced an uptick in advanced energy jobs last year. In Larimer County, 563 jobs arose in energy efficiency alone. In the Western Slope, Mesa County (home to Grand Junction), Garfield County, and Delta County also saw spurts of economic development via jobs spurred by advanced energy. Additionally, the northern communities of Morgan, Jackson, and Yuma counties each experienced a bump.
Progress has continued this year, with 13 pro-advanced energy bills sweeping the General Assembly, complemented by executive orders issued by Gov. Jared Polis, which are now law of the land. Taking this year’s legislative wins together with ground-breaking advances for advanced transportation and the Polis Administration’s steadfast direction, policies are in place for advanced energy businesses to grow statewide and transform Colorado’s economy for the better.
By the look of it, advanced energy jobs are poised to keep ticking upward. Perhaps the most promising expression is employers’ expectations (based on hiring plans for 2019) that jobs will grow by 9% this year. Let’s keep this going by continuing the state’s tradition of forward-looking strategies that produce public benefits, save money, optimize the state's resource diversity, and increase consumer choice for Coloradans. Being an early mover on state-of-the-art innovation and energy policy has paid off for Colorado. Let’s keep it going.