Report: 2.5 million Americans work in clean energy

Source: Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), Washington, D.C.

More than 2.5 million Americans work in the clean energy industry across all 50 states, according to a new comprehensive analysis unveiled this week by the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).

More than 2.5 million Americans work in the clean energy industry across all 50 states, according to a new comprehensive analysis unveiled today by the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).

The report – "Clean Jobs America" is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information and new data from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as a comprehensive survey of tens of thousands of businesses across the country. The report provides detailed breakdowns of clean energy jobs not available previously.

According to the findings, energy efficiency is by far the nation's largest clean energy sector employer, with nearly 1.9 million Americans working in areas such as high-efficiency lighting, Energy Star appliance manufacturing and high-efficiency HVAC services to reduce wasted energy in homes, schools and businesses.

Nearly 414,000 people work in renewable energy, the study found. The top renewable sectors were solar with 299,000 workers (including nearly 209,000 who work on solar full-time or close to full time, as The Solar Foundation noted in its 2015 job census) and wind with 77,000 workers.

"Clean energy is no longer a niche business – it's a big-time job creator," said Dan Smolen, managing director of The Green Suits, a Virginia-based talent recruitment and career development firm. "Our lawmakers need to realize that – and put policies in place, right now, to help the sector grow even more."

The Clean Jobs America analysis was done for E2 by BW Research Partnership, which has conducted similar studies for numerous state and federal agencies. The report was developed with survey responses from 20,000 U.S. companies BW Research contacted in late 2015. The report was done in collaboration with Clean Energy Trust, The Solar Foundation, Advanced Energy Economy and other partners.

Additional report findings include:

  • 328,000 people work in the energy efficient lighting industry. Another 162,000 help build Energy Star appliances.
  • Nearly 170,000 Americans work in the advanced vehicle industry, including 107,000 who work on hybrids and electric vehicles. Strength in this industry is due in part to new fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and trucks.
  • More people work in clean energy than sectors like real estate and agriculture, and many more work in clean energy than work in dirty energy industries like oil, gas and coal extraction.

"America's clean energy jobs market is massive," said Philip Jordan, vice president and principal at BW Research Partnership."It ranks right up there with some of the biggest industries in the country – including real estate, management, and agriculture.

"When we spoke with clean energy employers nationwide, we were struck by their responsiveness to state- and federal-level policies as well as their optimism," Jordan said. "It's clear that by shoring up clean energy policies, lawmakers have a big opportunity to attract even more clean energy jobs to their own backyards."

To compare the number of clean energy jobs in America to the fossil fuel industry and other sectors, see U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data here and here.

The report includes a case study of a growing Georgia solar company that earlier this month broke ground on a major project at a U.S. Navy facility in Mississippi, the latest evidence of the military's increased investments in clean, renewable energy. E2 videos show how smart policies are creating clean energy jobs at businesses in states including Colorado, California, Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, and Ohio. And this video shows how the Navy saves money with energy efficiency.

"In a short amount of time, clean energy has become a huge part of our workforce and our economy," said Bob Keefe, E2's executive director. "Smart policies helped jump-start this industry, and smart policies will keep these made-in-America jobs growing – and help our environment along the way."

According to Keefe, state energy efficiency and renewable standards, federal tax incentives and other policies have helped drive exponential growth in clean energy jobs in recent years. To keep these jobs growing, lawmakers should continue to support the policies that are driving the clean energy sector – ranging from the recent international climate agreement reached in Paris, to the federal Clean Power Plan, to state and regional clean energy goals.

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