Advanced energy employs 3.4 million workers across the United States, supporting more jobs than retail stores and twice as many as hotels and motels. These are some of the findings of AEE’s analysis of the latest data on energy sector employment. The U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER), published this year by the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and last year by the U.S. Department of Energy, is the definitive source of information on energy industry jobs in the United States. But digging into the data underlying the report, in collaboration with labor market research firm BW Research Associates, which administers the nationwide survey it is based on, reveals important trends in the advanced energy industry, which is both growing and changing.
Overall, advanced energy added nearly 50,000 jobs in 2017, for a growth rate of 1.5% over 2016. Employers expect to add even more jobs this year, projecting growth of 7% in 2018, which would bring total employment to over 3.6 million nationally. Based on data from last year’s edition of USEER, AEE found total advanced energy employment to be 3.3 million U.S. jobs in 2016.
Here are the major findings from our review of advanced energy employment, as of year-end 2017:
- Energy Efficiency is still the biggest source of advanced energy jobs, with 2.2 million employed nationwide helping households, offices, and businesses save money. Energy Efficiency is also growing fast for such a large segment, with 3% growth year-over-year. And employers project energy efficiency jobs will have the highest growth rate among all energy jobs this year, at 9%.
- Advanced Electricity Generation is the second largest source of jobs in advanced energy, at 542,000. More than half of that total employment is in solar, at 350,000 jobs. But solar employment lost ground last year, declining by 24,000 – the first reported decline in solar jobs since 2010, according to USEER. (Within the industry, the drop-off is attributed to adjustment following a banner year in 2016, as well as uncertainty regarding tariffs on solar imports.) Jobs in wind power grew at a 6% rate, to 107,000. Bioenergy and CHP added 13,600 jobs, to a total of 39,600, and Advanced Natural Gas added nearly 5,000 jobs, growing to 41,000. As a result, overall employment in Advanced Electricity Generation was flat last year.
- Advanced Grid and Energy Storage employment grew 5% last year, to 154,000 jobs. The largest share of those jobs is in energy storage, at 91,000, but growth was strongest in smart grid (up nearly 5,000 jobs) and microgrid technologies (up 4,000 jobs).
- Though the smallest segment of advanced energy employment, Advanced Fuels grew the fastest last year, at 16%, to total employment of 95,000. Corn ethanol accounts for a third, adding nearly 6,000 jobs last year.
- The biggest ups and downs can be seen in Advanced Vehicles. Overall, employment in the Advanced Vehicle segment fell 40,000 jobs, or 15%, to 220,000. Hybrid vehicles, the largest share of these jobs, also took the biggest hit, dropping 12,000 to 100,000 jobs total. Employment associated with plug-in hybrids also fell 4,000 jobs, to 40,000 total. USEER traces these employment declines to growing market share of these vehicles going to imports. But U.S. employment in all-electric vehicles jumped by 14,000, to 56,000 total jobs, showing the strength of U.S. production of EVs.
As a dynamic industry, advanced energy has its ups and downs, as we have shown in our Advanced Energy Now Market Reports. But advanced energy has also established itself as a major U.S. employer, and the overall job trend continues to be up.