Government leaders looking to put people to work should set their sights on policies that boost clean energy―especially energy efficiency. That’s the lesson of a new, comprehensive report that found industries whose products cut energy waste are leading the entire energy economy in job creation.
The report found that nearly 3.3 million Americans were working in clean energy (such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation) across America last year. All told, those sectors outnumber fossil fuel jobs 3 to 1.
But states and localities striving to add more clean energy jobs also need to include provisions that ensure those jobs are high-quality (e.g., family-sustaining wages, benefits, and a career path) and accessible to everyone. The report shows that much more effort is needed to make sure that anyone who wants these jobs has an opportunity to get them, regardless of gender or race.
What’s in the Report?
The 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) tracks all energy jobs and related worker demographics nationwide as the Trump administration continues to turn a blind eye to the multiple benefits that clean energy provides to Americans. The report was published by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative with support from over a dozen states, organizations, and foundations as well as E2, our sister organization. E2 also recently published its Clean Jobs America report that analyzes the clean energy jobs data from USEER—including energy efficiency, renewables, clean vehicles, and grid/storage.
The reports use the same methodology as previous U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) job reports, which DOE no longer compiles. It found that clean energy jobs are available—and growing across the nation.
Some additional report highlights include impressive job increases in the wind power industry, reaching 110,000 jobs, and the clean vehicle industry, reaching 254,000 jobs. Energy storage jobs grew by nearly 15 percent because more batteries are being used in electric and hybrid vehicles and as part of solar and wind installations.
What’s more, the report shows that energy efficiency—once again—outpaced all job growth, with 2.3 million workers representing two-thirds of all energy jobs—fossil and clean—in cities, small towns, rural areas, and across red and blue states. More good news shows that energy efficiency jobs are expected to grow by another 7.8 percent this year. In sum:
- Businesses that design, manufacture, and/or install energy efficiency products added more than 75,000 jobs last year, which totals 275,000 new jobs in the last three years alone.
- Manufacturing jobs, which produce ENERGY STAR®-certified products (such as appliances) and energy efficient building materials in the United States, increased by 6,000 jobs.
Almost 1.3 million energy efficiency jobs are in the construction industry with workers making our homes, schools, and offices more efficient, accounting for more than half of the efficiency workforce.
Construction and manufacturing jobs tend to be family-sustaining quality careers for workers across the nation. Making sure these jobs are available to people who may not live near training centers or do not have the knowledge about, or access to, these opportunities will take a concerted effort by cities and states, as well as labor unions.
The incredible growth in the energy efficiency sector also presents a striking rebuke of the Trump administration, which for two years has delayed implementing stricter energy efficiency standards for a broad range of appliances and electronic devices (it has missed 16 legal deadlines thus far) and continuously threatens ENERGY STAR®, the voluntary labeling program to help consumers know which products use the least energy. Such lack of federal action should serve as a rallying cry to state and local policymakers who have been slow to recognize the savings punch that energy efficiency packs for their communities.
Who Has the Jobs?
Energy efficiency jobs pay more on average than the national median wage—and certain demographics have a strong presence in the energy efficiency industry. However, there is also much work to do to make sure all people—especially women and African Americans who substantially lag the national workforce averages—are able to enter and succeed in the clean energy workforce.
As noted in the report, it is also extremely challenging to fill jobs in energy efficiency construction, manufacturing, and professional services mainly due to lack of experience, training, or technical skills. This provides an excellent opportunity for policymakers to set policies that help link those jobs to necessary training—and then to the people who don’t normally have access to those jobs—to ensure a large qualified pool of candidates.
What Can Policymakers Do?
The clean energy industry continues to be a leader in the U.S. economy. To ensure states and localities are reaping the multiple benefits of clean energy, including better health, lower energy bills—especially crucial for lower-income Americans who often struggle to keep their lights on and their heat running—and increased opportunities for good jobs, they can establish stronger policies. Those policies should rely on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean vehicles—and ensure local community members are able to access the resulting jobs.
States and localities should:
- Ensure utilities are taking advantage of energy efficiency before using other resources, like wind and solar, to meet customer needs.
- Scale up local building codes to require energy efficient construction.
- Back clean energy policies that also ensure quality jobs are accessible to all to help reduce unemployment and support struggling community members.
- Make sure all vocational training (new or existing) is tied directly to available jobs.
- Continually get the word out about clean energy program opportunities so people seek energy efficiency services.
The feds should:
- Stop rolling back smart clean energy policies that benefit all Americans.
- Upgrade and extend expired energy efficiency tax credits for commercial and residential buildings.
- Offer more tax credits for energy efficient cars.
- Increase investments in applied science programs, while stopping attempts to roll back clean vehicle laws.
The takeaway from the employment report is simple: Clean energy is a great source of job prospects. Policymakers can help ensure everyone in their community will benefit from cleaner air and lower bills by exploring a wide array of opportunities. Using energy as efficiently as possible is the simplest and least expensive way to cut the pollution that causes detrimental climate change while also improving the health of our communities and offering a path out of poverty for many hard-working Americans.