More than 85,000 New Yorkers work in clean energy at more than 7,500 business establishments, according to Clean Jobs New York, a new analysis released this week by the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (an NRDC affiliate) and other partners from across the state.
That’s more than the number of New York state residents who are employed in investment banking, bars, and motor vehicle parts manufacturing—combined.
Clean energy workers can be found in nearly every New York congressional and state legislative district. They make buildings in Manhattan more energy efficient, manufacture solar panels in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area, and install wind farms in rural Central New York.
Visionary policies like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), as well as the leadership of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Governor Andrew Cuomo, have been a big part of clean energy’s expansion in New York. And according to the report, the sector is poised to grow even more.
Employers anticipate growing more than 6 percent this year, more than double the growth rate of the entire U.S. economy last year. To keep growth on track, Governor Cuomo and NYSERDA must show continued leadership by implementing a robust Clean Energy Standard, further strengthening RGGI’s post-2020 emission reduction targets, leveraging the Clean Energy Fund, and doubling down on energy efficiency by establishing clear, robust targets.
Energy Efficiency Drives Job Growth
Energy efficiency employs more than 69,000 New Yorkers—or about four in five New York clean energy workers. These workers improve the efficiency of commercial and residential facilities, manufacture ENERGY STAR® appliances, and develop advanced energy-saving materials.
More than half of all efficiency workers work with multiple technologies. For the other half working in specific sectors, almost one-fifth work with advanced building materials and building insulation, while HVAC workers also constitute a chunk of the state’s efficiency workers.
New York’s energy efficiency industry is strong—but it could be even stronger. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in 2013 ranked New York third nationwide for leadership in energy efficiency. By 2014, however, New York had fallen to seventh, and last year it dropped to ninth.
By establishing clear and robust statewide energy efficiency targets, New York can regain its Top 5 footing—and reap the cost savings, increased job growth, and other benefits that come with a more energy-efficient economy.
Renewable energy generation employs more than 12,400 New Yorkers, or about 15 percent of the state’s clean energy workforce. More than 10,500 of these jobs are in solar, with the remaining workers employed in wind, geothermal, advanced biofuels, and low-impact hydroelectric power.
New York’s high number of solar jobs is no accident. NY-Sun, a $1 billion initiative launched by Governor Cuomo in 2012 that aims to add 3 gigawatts of solar capacity to the state by 2023—as well as New York’s strong renewables standards—are driving growth.
The NY-Sun investment is already paying dividends. Last year, New York ranked fifth nationally in solar capacity added, and it ranks seventh nationally for cumulative installed capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Meanwhile, wind employs more than 1,300 New Yorkers, including electricians, contractors, crane operators, and concrete and steelworkers.
Near Ithaca, seven General Electric turbines at the Black Oak Wind Farm will soon begin generating 16 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity—enough to power 5,000 homes. It’s the first commercial-sized, community-developed wind farm in the Empire State, with 150 households invested in it and sharing in its revenue.
Visionary Policies Drive Industries Forward
Much of New York’s renewables growth has come thanks to its RPS, which relied on NYSERDA to drive deployment of more than 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy while spurring more than $2.7 billion in direct investment in New York’s economy.
Building on the RPS is New York’s Clean Energy Standard, which Governor Cuomo outlined in late 2015 as part of the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy. The standard is expected to be finalized in June, and it will require New York to source half its electricity from renewables like solar and on- and off-shore wind by 2030. In ambition, New York’s standard is equal only to California’s.
Hitting the 50-percent renewables target would create economic benefits totaling $1.8 billion by 2023, according to the New York Public Service Commission.
Also critical for clean energy deployment is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, the nation’s first cap-and-trade program to cut power sector carbon emissions. The collaboration between New York and eight other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, recently strengthened under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, is cutting emissions, lowering bills, and growing the economy.
In RGGI’s seven years, states have cut power-plant carbon emissions by more than a third, avoiding an estimated $10 billion in public health costs. RGGI has also created more than 30,000 job-years of work, led to more than $390 million in energy bill savings, and generated $2.9 billion in regional economic activity.
Additionally, New York’s $5 billion Clean Energy Fund will invest in energy efficiency and clean technology, including NY-Sun and the NY Green Bank. Working over the next decade in concert with the Clean Energy Standard and new market mechanisms created through REV, these programs will help achieve the goals of New York’s State Energy Plan.
With so much happening in New York, the 85,000 clean energy jobs we learned about this week feels like it’s only the beginning.
E2 New York Chapter Director and businessman Ron Kamen speaks at the press conference rolling out Clean Jobs New York: