Once again, a new report shows the clean energy workforce is leading the way in job growth across the nation. Energy efficiency—using less electricity and natural gas to keep our homes comfortable and power our appliances and devices—employs 2.25 million workers across nearly every U.S. county, making it the top employer and biggest job creator in the country’s energy sector.
According to the latest report from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) and E4TheFuture, based on 2017 data from the latest U.S. Energy and Employment Report, energy efficiency workers (such as those that manufacture or install efficient equipment) abound, outnumbering K-8 school teachers and ranking in size to the number of waitstaff in bars and restaurants across the country. Plus, energy efficiency jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent this year. The report also shows efficiency jobs by legislative districts and metropolitan areas.
Energy efficiency is also a great way to reduce energy bills—especially important for those lower-income Americans who pay a disproportionate amount of their income to keep the lights on and the heat running. Ensuring everyone has access to effective efficiency opportunities means people will no longer have to choose between paying their energy bill or purchasing much-needed medicine and food.
Efficiency also helps clean up our energy system and our air because reducing energy use lessens the need to burn fossil fuels to power our homes and businesses. This improves the health of all Americans and decreases climate-warming emissions while reducing the need to explore and drill for fossil fuels on both our public and private lands and in our waters.
With job numbers and benefits like that, it’s no wonder that Congress as well as state and local decision makers are being asked to step up and support smart energy policies that will keep this powerful job engine running.
Who works in energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency creates job opportunities across multiple sectors of the economy, and in an amazing 3,000 of America’s 3,007 counties—rural and urban, politically red and blue. Construction workers account for 60 percent of today’s efficiency workforce. More than 1.2 million are working to build more energy efficient homes, businesses, and schools, which includes installing heating, cooling and lighting equipment that meet today’s energy efficient standards. In addition, more than 315,000 people help manufacture the equipment and materials to cut energy waste in our buildings, including windows and insulation, as well as high-efficient boilers, refrigerators, lighting, and other appliances that qualify as efficient enough to earn the ENERGY STAR® label.
A drive to boost energy efficiency also creates opportunities for entrepreneurs. Americans have launched more than 350,000 energy efficiency businesses, nearly 80 percent of which are small. These include companies and nonprofits that are, for example, women-owned and operated—such as Elena Chrimat and Ideal Energy AZ—or designed to support employing veterans.
Where are all the jobs?
The analysis also includes a breakdown of efficiency jobs for every state. These job numbers are specific to working in the energy efficiency sector, which means there are millions more jobs created from the need to supply and ship efficient equipment as well as from the money saved for both residents and business owners. More money in people’s pockets means that they can hire additional staff or are able to more frequently eat out, go to the movies, or buy gadgets and household products. All of these services require additional jobs to support a strong and growing economy.
How can we create more energy efficiency jobs?
With Energy Efficiency Day coming up on October 5, everyone can support energy efficiency by signing up and taking at least one simple step to make your home more energy efficient—it’s as easy as changing a light bulb, literally.
It is also important to keep the pressure on state and federal decision makers to continue investing in clean energy. NRDC continually pushes Congress to properly fund smart efficiency policies and programs, such as appliance efficiency standards, ENERGY STAR®, and the Weatherization Assistance Program, which have historically enjoyed bipartisan support. Investing in energy infrastructure that helps improve efficiency, such as smart grid technologies, is also key, as are energy efficient building tax credits.
In addition, future-looking, well-funded research is critically important to long-term progress. Thanks to research done by the Department of Energy, our appliances use less energy, our cars can run on electricity rather than gas, and we can harness the energy of the sun and the wind. Continued investment in clean energy research will open up even more opportunity for jobs to support a clean energy economy.
Making sure these jobs are as good as possible and deliver on expected energy savings will also require minimum quality standards and training programs—especially for those people who have traditionally been left behind—that are designed to link directly to career opportunities.
With more and more states leading the way on energy efficiency policies and investment, we can learn from one another to build on the great successes to date, help ensure people who need it the most have access to the benefits of energy efficiency, and target investment to transition workers to new industries as the energy sector evolves. Relying on efficiency’s many benefits will also improve our health, make living more affordable, and grow a strong economy all while cutting dangerous climate pollution.