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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Why isn’t job growth the first thing climate activists mention?

In 2016 and 2017, the US Department of Energy produced the US Energy and Employment Report [USEER] as part of an effort to "produce the most comprehensive and accurate study of energy workers across all sectors." The last DOE USEER was released in January 2017.  With the installation of Trmp, the DOE cancelled the project.  

In response, the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) ( and the Energy Futures Initiative ( worked with numerous partners to "continue producing the USEER report using the same methodology, datasets and research firm that produced the reports for the DOE.”  The report searches 186 employment codes, contacts 30,000 employers each year, and covers 53 different energy, efficiency, and motor vehicle technologies.  

I attended a webinar on March 30, 2019 on the 4th annual USEER.  Here are my notes and some observations. 

There are 3.3 million clean energy jobs
2.3 million in energy efficiency
508,000 renewable energy
254,000 clean vehicles
139,000 grid and storage
38,000 clean fuels

There were 226,000 new jobs in 2018 in these 5 clean energy sectors.  Renewable energy and energy efficiency added 152,000 new jobs, out-performing the economy for the 4th year in a row, 2.3% growth to 1.8%.  

Energy efficiency alone added 76,000 jobs, for a total of 275,000 new jobs in the last 3 years.  Alternative fuel vehicles added almost 34,000 jobs.  

Energy storage (battery, pumped hydro, mechanical, thermal) employed 75,180 people.  

Employers expect over the next year for renewable generation to have 7.1% growth, energy efficiency 7.8%, 9% if they can “find the folks,” battery storage 4.4%.  However, solar hiring was down in 2018 by .03%  and solar jobs declined by about 4% due to Trmp’s tariffs.  Solar jobs, however, are still up significantly over past the 5+ years with 3-4% decreases only in the last two years.  

For comparison, there are 1.15 million jobs in the entire US fossil fuel industry with coal mining and fuels production gaining 650 jobs or 0.9% in 2018.  There are 1.15 million employed in fossil fuels and 3.3 million employed in clean energy today.

CA, TX, FL, NY, MI, ILL, MA, OH, NC, VA are the top 10 states for clean energy jobs.  
10 states generate more than 20% of their electricity from wind and solar:  KS, IA, OK, ND, SD, VT, CA, ME, CO, and MN.  
The fastest-growing jobs in 12 states were in renewable energy in 2018.  
There are more clean energy jobs in Republican districts than Democratic districts.

Full report at

There are currently more clean energy jobs available than workers to fill them.  The lack of trained people was highlighted by virtually all sectors as a growing problem.  Lack of experience, training, and technical skills was almost universally cited as the top reason for hiring difficulty by employers across all five surveyed sectors. The need for technical training and certifications was also frequently cited, implying the need for expanded investments in workforce training and closer coordination between employers and the workforce training system.

MA Clean Energy Center and NYSERDA workforce development programs were mentioned as good currently working models.  It takes a few years to train people for these jobs including continuing education for electricians, plumbers, carpenters.  Community colleges, military, and labor unions are all involved or should be. 

Editorial Comment
Clean energy technology teach-ins are certainly possible too.  Community groups have been doing self-education and activism around energy and environmental issues for decades.  At the end of the 1970s, the Urban Solar Energy Association (now Boston Area Solar Energy Association and many other groups around the country did solar barn-raisings.  More recently, the Home Energy Efficiency Team ( has organized weatherization parties and is currently deeply involved with Mothers Out Front and others on policing natural gas (methane) leaks.  These can all feed into DIY and certificate training, in combination with all the educational institutions interested in the possibilities.

This is an example of what I call swadeshi, local production or local economy.  It is the daily practice of nonviolent (home) economics that Gandhi believed was the heart of satyagraha, soul or truth force, the individual and community strength to perform political nonviolence.  A significant difference between Gandhi’s nonviolence and Martin Luther King Jr’s nonviolence is the absence of swadeshi, a practical or cottage industry component to the demonstration of economic, political, and social nonviolence.
End of Editorial Comment

Energy efficiency has the most overall growth and potential for jobs.  It is about 41% of energy sector jobs now.  More than 1 out of 6, 17% of all USA construction jobs are in energy efficiency.  E2 ( is preparing an Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report due in summer 2019.  Cities like Boston have found that energy efficiency retrofits, electrification of existing residential buildings and improved transportation to be the most impactful strategies for reducing carbon emissions (

Higher energy standards are another policy that supports clean energy and energy efficiency jobs.  On April 18, the city council of New York approved a plan where every building in the city larger than 25,000 square feet in size must reduce its carbon emissions by 40% no later than 2030.  "The new policy will apply to more than 50,000 buildings in the city, including Trump Tower” (  CA will have a building standard of net zero energy for all low rise residential buildings in 2020 (  In the EU, all new buildings will be nearly zero-energy by the end of 2020 and all new public buildings have been nearly zero-energy since 2018 (  Over the past few months, I’ve heard at least two energy policy experts say that a few hundred people, the people on the state and local boards who determine building codes, are a key constituency to speed the energy transition.

Over 50% of energy and energy efficiency jobs have median entry level wages below $17/hour.  Solar and wind employ a higher percentage of veterans than the national average, 8 - 11% as opposed to 6%, but women are a smaller portion of the workforce in these sectors, ranging from 23% to 33%, compared to the overall economy, where women make up 47% of the workforce.

Clean energy employers said they anticipate 6% job growth for 2019.  After two years of losses, solar energy employers predict 8% job growth for 2019, Energy efficiency continues to lead the clean energy sector in total number of jobs, growing 3.4% to 2.3 million jobs.  Wind energy is also up 3.4% jobs over the past year.

Jobs in clean vehicles manufacturing increased by 16%. About 254,000 Americans now work at companies building hybrid, electric and other clean vehicles, while another 486,000 Americans work in companies that manufacture parts that make vehicles more efficient.  Energy storage employment increased 14% as utilities, businesses and consumers deployed more batteries in EVs and with solar and wind installations.  Grid modernization jobs grew by 3.3%.

Between 2013 and 2018, support for renewable energy research increased from 73% to 88% among registered voters, including a 30 percent shift among conservative Republicans.
A majority of Americans (58%) say they think policies to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy will improve economic growth and create new jobs.

Nevada saw 32.43% growth in green jobs over 2018.  However, MA solar job growth is down 11.4% and Vermont is down 19.9% so state policies really matter and may be temporary blips in the overall trend, which is increasing growth for clean energy jobs.

Why climate activists don’t talk about clean energy job growth first and foremost is beyond me.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, solar photovoltaic installers (median salary $42,680) and wind turbine service technicians ($54,370) are the number one and two fastest growing jobs in the country, with expected growth rates of around 100% out till 2026.


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