Energy Efficiency Jobs: Nearly 1.9 Million and Growing

President-elect Trump should look to clean energy and energy efficiency if he wants to make good on his jobs promise to Americans. Energy efficiency already accounts for nearly 1.9 million U.S. jobsten times more than oil and gas drilling, and 30 times more than coal mining.

Energy efficiency has long been touted—rightly—as the easiest and cheapest way to cut climate-changing pollution, while saving customers money on their utility bills. And there’s plenty of evidence that it packs a really big punch—energy efficiency has contributed more to meeting growing U.S. energy needs in the last four decades than oil, gas, and nuclear combined.

But it also is a significant job creator as a new analysis by the nonpartisan groups Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and E4TheFuture shows, with 245,000 more jobs projected to be added over the coming year alone. That’s a 13 percent growth rate!

And the United States could create even more clean energy jobs. The analysis released last week shows that strengthened local, state, and federal efficiency policies, as well as increased utility investment in efficiency programs, could create many additional energy efficiency jobs–and further reduce harmful pollution from power plant generation, strengthen the electricity grid, and lower energy costs for everybody.

Good, local jobs

Energy efficiency is the No. 1 job creator within the clean energy economy, accounting for three out of four American clean energy jobs, according to the analysis, which is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a survey of efficiency-focused businesses across the country. The majority of workers who spend at least a percentage of their time working on energy efficiency are employed by small companies with 25 or fewer employees and they exist in every city and town across America. Keeping the jobs local has multiplier effects because the less we spend on our energy bills, the more money can be spent on other things, creating even more jobs across the local economy.

 

These are not only local jobs, but good, skilled jobs, including workers at local heating, ventilation, and air conditioning companies; manufacturing workers at ENERGY STAR® appliance factories; advanced building materials and insulation installers at construction companies; and weatherization installers working to seal leaks in homes, schools and businesses to keep down heating and air conditioning bills.

 

State policies important contributors to job creation

California, Massachusetts, and Illinois—which are the leading states for energy efficiency employment, respectively—account for nearly half a million efficiency-related jobs. Rounding out the top 10 states for energy efficiency jobs, are: New York, Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Ohio.

A key factor in creating those jobs is the state’s policies encouraging energy efficiency. Factors such as population, the size of a state’s construction industry, and weather also figure into the rankings.

California, as the analysis points out, has long been an energy-efficiency pioneer, establishing the first state energy-efficiency standards for appliances in 1976; setting a goal to double energy savings in homes, businesses, and factories by 2030; and just recently stepping up efforts to make energy-saving improvements to multi-family buildings occupied by low-income residents, long an under-served population that bears a disproportionate energy burden.

(Energy efficiency not only creates jobs, it saves all customers money. A recent NRDC study found that residents of states with the weakest energy efficiency policies saw their monthly power bills go up twice as much as residents in the most efficient states. In Wyoming, which has invested very little in efficiency, monthly residential electricity bills have risen by more than $16, when adjusted for inflation, since 1990. In California, a leader on energy efficiency, electric bills increased by about $4.25 during the same period, when adjusted for inflation.)

And Illinois—third in energy efficiency jobs—just passed the most significant piece of climate and clean energy policy in the state’s history. That will keep their clean energy jobs numbers growing.

 

To increase jobs and improve the economy, support energy efficiency

Overall, however, the analysis calls attention to the ``uneven progress’’ among states in promoting policies—such as building codes and utility-administered energy efficiency programs that will support energy efficiency jobs. 

Large states like Florida and Texas have major construction industries that support thousands of energy efficiency jobs so they show up in the top ten, but they fall far short of their potential, according to the report. With stronger state-level policies, these states could add thousands of more jobs. Florida provides little funding for electricity or natural gas efficiency programs. The state’s Public Service Commission in 2014 adopted significant energy efficiency program cutbacks (a 2014 NRDC analysis showed that ramping up efficiency programs in Florida could create 10,000 new efficiency-related jobs in the state.)

Think of how many more jobs could be created---and how much pollution could be reduced and money saved—if states aggressively promoted energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency has already been a great success story for job growth.

But so much more can be done to promote jobs in the energy efficiency sector—not to mention cut harmful pollution and save consumers money—by putting the right policies in place at a local, state, and federal level. This includes pressing ahead with federal energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment, strengthening local and state building codes to ensure buildings are as energy efficient as possible, and expanding utility energy efficiency programs.

Our state and federal lawmakers can do this and we should all insist on it.

About the Authors

Sheryl Carter

Codirector, Energy program

Join Us