New Study Finds US Clean Energy Workforce Tops 2.5 Million Workers

As state legislatures throughout the Northeast debate bills regarding net metering, shared solar, and other clean energy initiatives, a comprehensive new national study offers a timely reminder that clean energy companies support thousands of good jobs for workers throughout the nation.

The new study, released yesterday from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), found that more than 2.5 million Americans work in the clean energy industry across all fifty states. The first-of-its-kind national analysis was carried out for E2 by BW Research Partnership, a firm that is well known to NECEC members for its work on respected clean energy industry studies for state governments in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The “Clean Jobs America,” report available here – is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information and new data from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as survey responses from 20,000 U.S. companies BW Research contacted in late 2015. The project was a collaboration involving E2, Clean Energy Trust, The Solar Foundation, Advanced Energy Economy and other partners.

Clean Jobs America found that the energy efficiency sector is by far the nation’s largest clean energy employer, with nearly 1.9 million Americans working to reduce wasted energy in homes, schools and businesses through high-efficiency lighting, Energy Star appliance manufacturing, energy efficient HVAC services, and other methods.

Collectively, renewable energy companies using solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel and other technologies employed nearly 414,000 people across the nation.  The top renewable sector by a wide margin was the solar power industry with 299,000 workers (including nearly 209,000 who work on solar full-time or close to full time, as revealed in the 2015 job census conducted by BW Research for The Solar Foundation). 

One of the most interesting findings in Clean Jobs America was how well the clean energy marketplace compares with better known sectors, from an employment support perspective.

“America’s clean energy jobs market is massive,” according to Philip Jordan, vice president and principal at BW Research Partnership. “It ranks right up there with some of the biggest industries in the country – including real estate, management, and agriculture.

To compare the number of clean energy jobs in America to the fossil fuel industry and other sectors, see U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data here and here.

The new report makes a strong argument for the role of government policies in driving job growth in the clean energy industry, and lays out the case for continued development of supportive policies.

According to BW Partners VP Jordan, “When we spoke with clean energy employers nationwide, we were struck by their responsiveness to state- and federal-level policies as well as their optimism.  It’s clear that by shoring up clean energy policies, lawmakers have a big opportunity to attract even more clean energy jobs to their own backyards.”

Among the policies specifically cited as contributing to job growth, the report notes that state energy efficiency and renewable standards, federal tax incentives and other initiatives have “helped drive exponential growth in clean energy jobs in recent years.”   

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Kevin Doyle

Kevin is Principal of Green Economy and Co-Chair of the Clean Energy Council's Workforce Development Group.