What Is Driving Clean Energy Job Growth?

Ed BurghardEnergy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this Nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our Nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.

Jimmy Carter

Every so often, I am approached by authors who would like to contribute a guest blog post on a subject of interest to the economic development profession.  There has certainly been a lot of global attention regarding the impact of renewable energy on the economy and many communities are working hard to attract “green energy” companies as part of their broader economic development strategy. But be it any amount of plannings & prospects that are taken up on a collective level, it eventually & always comes down to an individual to save energy and not contribute to global warming. Hence, we have to be equipped with the necessities to conserve energy. A good way is to start at home, and a utility comparison is the most helpful when it comes to conserving energy. Given the interest level on this subject, I was happy to accept an offer from Clint Robertson to publish his thoughts on the renewable energy industry.

This post was written by Clint Robertson, a green building and sustainability consultant (clintrobertson106@gmail.com) Clint copy

The Secret Behind Clean Energy Job Growth

Throughout the recent economic recession the green sector kept booming. And as the nation recovers and more people go back to work, it seems the industry has ramped up its hiring even more. There are approximately 3.1 million green jobs in the United States, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and more jobs come online every day.

The second quarter of 2013 brought a record 40,000 new green jobs to the market as shown in a recent report by the Environmental Entrepreneurs, a clear indicator that growth in 2013 would surpass the 110,000 green jobs added in 2012. It’s obvious the clean energy sector will continue on its high growth trajectory as the Solar Foundation just announced a 20 percent increase in employment in the solar industry in the last year. With an ever-improving success story, it leaves one to wonder: What’s driving the success of clean energy jobs?

Government impact on clean jobs

One of the biggest reasons for the growth of green jobs is the government’s commitment to generating more renewable power and creating green jobs. The Obama administration has invested more than $90 billion in a wide range of energy initiatives meant to create jobs and establish a clean energy future for the United States.

Here’s the breakdown of how that $90 billion was or is being spent:

  • $29 billion directed toward energy-efficiency projects, including home retrofits
  • $21 billion spent on incentives, such as tax credits, to help grow solar and wind energy
  • $18 billion for high-speed trains
  • $10 billion allotted to the modernization of the power grid
  • $6 billion to promote advanced vehicles and the battery industry
  • $3 billion for carbon capture research
  • $3 billion in job training
  • $3 billion dedicated to clean manufacturing tax breaks

Most states have also implemented legislation that has helped spur the growth of clean energy. These agreements, or Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), set a minimum renewable energy requirement for clean energy generation. In states with an RPS, there’s often a larger amount of renewable power on the grid than those without.

In Texas, the RPS helped grow renewable power enough to ensure that every consumer receives an average of 9.5 percent green energy in their electricity supply. Because the state also has a deregulated energy market, where consumers can choose among a number of electricity providers and plans, one report says about 19 percent of consumers opt to purchase a larger share of green energy. This extra renewable consumption has helped Texas generate more wind energy than any other state and can be attributed to the nearly 230,000 workers with green jobs in the state.

Outside investments support green energy

Although the government’s commitment plays a significant role in the success of green energy jobs, private investors are equally as important to the sector’s success story. Robert Pollin, the president of Pear Energy and professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, has studied the impact of investments in the clean energy sector extensively.

He found that the clean energy sector could create three times more jobs than fossil fuel-generated energy on the same investment. For every $1 million invested in clean energy 17 green jobs could be created, whereas the same investment in brown energy would create only 5 jobs.

As a result, a number of companies and wealthy individuals invest heavily in renewable power, driving growth of the industry. Google, for example, has committed more than $1 billion to wind and solar projects, which generate more than 2 gigawatts of clean energy. These investments not only help the company reduce its carbon footprint, but create jobs in dozens of locations. By Pollin’s math, Google’s investment may have contributed as many as 17,000 jobs.

Along with hefty government investments, private contributions have helped grow the renewable energy sector into what it is today. Though data released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that global investments in green energy have dropped 11 percent, it’s likely that decreased cost of building these technologies will continue to stretch investment dollars further and create more jobs in the future.

You can also read this post by Clint – Are Deregulated States Greener?

Which State is Ranked #1 By Residents For Having The Most Acceptable Environment?

Download the 2013 American Dream State Ranking Report and check out page #6 for the answer.

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