Workers lower an HVAC unit onto the roof of a school. Photo courtesy of McKinstry.
This week and last, the AEE Institute published first-ever surveys of advanced energy employment in California and Iowa. Both states are known as advanced energy standouts, each in its own way. California is an across-the-board leader in climate and energy policy, with a strong greenhouse gas law and a 33 percent renewable energy standard. Iowa gets more than a quarter of its electricity generated by wind and its farms contribute greatly to the nation’s renewable fuels capacity. But now we can state with certainty that those noteworthy characteristics translate into thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of advanced energy jobs – in California, hundreds of thousands.
Here are the top-line findings from the two reports.
The advanced energy industry in California is, not surprisingly, California-sized – over 431,000 workers in more than 40,000 businesses. That’s almost double the employment in the state’s marquee motion picture, television, and radio industries, and two-and-a-half times the number of workers in aerospace. Rural Iowa has 22,600 advanced energy employees in 1,400 businesses, more workers than in crop production, trucking, or animal production. In California, 2.4 percent of the total state workforce is engaged in advanced energy commerce; in Iowa, 1.3 percent.
In both states, employers say they are planning to add more workers next year: In Iowa, after a slight decline last year (due to the on-again, off-again federal production tax credit), 6 percent employment growth in advanced energy is expected in the coming year; in California, next year’s job total is expected to jump a whopping 17 percent, to more than 500,000.
There are, of course, differences between the job profiles of these two states other than size. Iowa has a lot more workers in wind than in solar (although solar is catching on in the Hawkeye State, thanks to popular rebates first offered in 2012). In California, the nation’s largest solar market, there are 20 times as many solar jobs as there are in wind (although, in absolute numbers, there are nearly as many wind jobs in California as there are in Iowa).
But in both states, by far the largest number of jobs is found in energy efficiency. Just about half the advanced energy jobs in Iowa (10,888) are devoted to making buildings more efficient, nearly three-quarters in California (303,000).
There’s much more to be learned about advanced energy businesses and jobs in the two reports (California here, Iowa here). There is also much that still needs to be learned about advanced energy as a job creator in states across the country.
For the advanced energy industry to get the recognition it deserves as an economic driver, the jobs story is central, but telling it is not easy. There are no official statistics that track employment in the wide range of technologies and business lines that make up the advanced energy industry, either singly or in the aggregate, and available data sources have their limits.
The AEE Institute analyzed 2010 data from the Brookings Institution and determined that advanced energy businesses accounted for at least 680,000 jobs nationwide, nearly 100,000 more than the U.S. airline industry. We knew that to be a conservative figure, because the Brookings data did not cover all segments of advanced energy, and because many smaller firms were not included (we now know, from both the California and Iowa reports, that much of advanced energy employment is in firms of less than 25 employees, if not less than 10).
The Institute also used that dataset to produce state-specific employment reports for two of our state partners, Arkansas Advanced Energy Association and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, in 2012. In Arkansas, we found 90 advanced energy companies employing 11,000 workers, nearly as many as were employed in the state’s motel and hotel industry. In Ohio, the total was 25,400 employees in more than 400 enterprises, equivalent to employment in the agriculture/forestry and mining industries combined.
For the two new reports on California and Iowa, the AEE Institute commissioned employment surveys conducted by BW Research Partnership, a leading workforce and economic development research firm. The survey method captures a great many more companies of all sizes and covering all of our technology segments (more than 2,000 firms responded to the California survey) for more complete data. BW Research is also more experienced in surveying advanced energy and related industries than any other firm, having produced reports for state agencies in Vermont and Massachusetts, as well as for the National Renewable Energy Lab, the Solar Foundation (National Solar Jobs Census), and other groups.
Employment surveys such are these are treasure troves of information, but they are intensive research efforts, and can only be done state by state. It may be bit by bit, but through the efforts of the AEE Institute, our state partners, and others, the advanced energy jobs story is getting told.
To download the reports, click on the buttons below