Clean energy jobs surging but further efforts needed to tackle diversity

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. 

Credit: E2 Clean Jobs America

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.

Credit: E2 Clean Jobs America

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.

Credit: E2 Clean Jobs America

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.

Credit: The 2019 U.S. Energy & Employment Report

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.