It’s a pivotal time in the American job market. Renewable energy is in the news every day (California to phase out gasoline-powered cars! Amazon invests in new climate technologies! ) and there are now more Americans referred to as clean energy workers than ever before. The economic tide is turning toward renewable energy, with Goldman Sachs predicting that 25 percent of all energy spending will target clean energy in 2021 and that the annual investment in renewable infrastructure will total $16 trillion by 2030. That’s right, 16 trillion.
Employment in the renewable energy field is, simply put, the future. As of 2019, it employed nearly 2.5 million workers, with enormous growth set over the next decade. It’s an industry with a supply of jobs that expands regularly, and millions of Americans across an array of occupations are qualified to work within it. It is booming like no other industry across the world. The job growth is even exceeding expert predictions: more than 24 million new jobs are expected in the next decade.
So, what is a clean energy worker? Workers employed by solar, wind, and geothermal companies, or by the manufacturers of LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances. These are jobs in bio-fuel and hydropower, decarbonization, and bioenergy. It’s electricians, plumbers, welders, roofers, mechanical trade technicians, construction workers, salespeople, service techs, marketing professionals, managers, and mechanics. And they are all needed to keep the clean economy booming. Clean energy jobs are available in four main areas: energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean vehicles, and grid and storage.
Let’s take a look at Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency covers various fields, including lighting, heating and cooling, and advanced materials. There are now more people working in energy efficiency than the entire fossil fuel (coal, oil, etc.) industry in 41 states, and twice as many nationwide. If you’re a veteran, you’ll be glad to hear that renewable energy jobs hire more veterans than anyone else in the energy sector. It’s the fastest-growing job sector within the energy industry, accounting for half of the entire industry’s new jobs. Almost half of these jobs are in smaller companies, most with under 50 employees.
Workers in energy efficiency manufacture and install windows, insulation, and high-efficiency systems and appliances in new homes, and update older homes and commercial buildings with the latest technology. They design and construct clean buildings. They upgrade old ventilation and water systems in homes and offices. Overall, these workers create massive savings for homeowners, schools, the armed forces, and government entities.
And the job growth is astronomical – with New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Jersey leading the way with consistent, strong growth in manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, and professional businesses. California, meanwhile, has the nation’s largest workforce with more than 300,000 clean energy workers, most of which are based in installation and distribution firms. Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio round out the top five-largest energy-efficient workforces. Most cities across America are job leaders, logically, urban areas are major centers for employment. However, there is increased momentum in suburbs and small towns as the need for clean energy spreads.
There’s no doubt that energy efficiency is a business represented wherever you are. In Alabama, energy efficiency jobs make up 20 percent of all construction jobs statewide – that’s a statistic repeated across all corners of the nation.
There are numerous factors driving these rapidly expanding job opportunities. The first is that in the wake of the pandemic, interest rates are down worldwide, which has allowed new companies to secure initial investment more easily. There is also a significant trend of new countries joining in the move toward efficiency, which is repeating in trends across existing governments and companies that favor a clean climate. Many of these major companies, with deep pockets and engineering expertise, are investing in the sector, offering thousands of new jobs.
The handiwork of the energy efficiency workforce is often tucked away (i.e. a super-insulated building or the quiet hum of a new HVAC system), but the impact is clearly visible in the job market. If you have a background in lighting, ductwork, HVAC systems, or insulation, your skills are extraordinarily desirable and will be for the foreseeable future. Salaries are equally competitive as demand grows. Jobs will continue to grow for numerous reasons including the constant updates to government efficiency standards for equipment set by the U.S. Department of Energy, changes in building codes at state, local, and federal levels, and new state laws prioritizing energy efficiency in new construction.
It’s a brave new world out there, with renewable energy driving a strong increase in new jobs that shows no sign of slowing down. Workers with a diversity of skill sets are needed across the country as the world pivots to clean energy.