TODAY’S STUDY: New Energy Jobs On The Rise
U.S. Energy and Employment Report
January 2017 (U.S. Department of Energy)
The 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) finds that the Traditional Energy and Energy Efficiency sectors today employ approximately 6.4 million Americans. These sectors increased in 2016 by just under 5 percent, adding over 300,000 net new jobs, roughly 14% of all those created in the country.
The 2017 USEER analyzes four sectors of the U.S. economy. The first two of those sectors make up the Traditional Energy sector:
• Electric Power Generation and Fuels
• Transmission, Distribution and Storage
• Energy Efficiency
• Motor Vehicles Electric Power Generation and Fuels technologies directly employ more than 1.9 million workers. In 2016, 55 percent, or 1.1 million, of these employees worked in traditional coal, oil, and gas, while almost 800,000 workers were employed in low carbon emission generation technologies, including renewables, nuclear, and advanced/low emission natural gas. Just under 374,000 individuals work, in whole or in part, for solar firms, with more than 260,000 of those employees spending the majority of their time on solar. There are an additional 102,000 workers employed at wind firms across the nation. The solar workforce increased by 25% in 2016, while wind employment increased by 32%.
The 2017 USEER also identifies about 2.3 million jobs in Transmission, Distribution, and Storage, with approximately 982,000 working in retail trade (gasoline stations and fuel dealers) and another 830,000 working across utilities and construction. Exclusive of the retail trade sector, Transmission, Wholesale Trade, Distribution and Storage firms —our country’s energy infrastructure—added over 65,000 jobs primarily by utility and construction companies, as they invested in hardening the nation’s energy infrastructure and building new transmission and distribution lines. Overall, 31.5 percent of respondent employers working in this sector reported that a majority of their revenues come from grid modernization or other utility-funded modernization projects.
The 2017 USEER also shows that 2.2 million Americans are employed, in whole or in part, in the design, installation, and manufacture of Energy Efficiency products and services, adding 133,000 jobs in 2016. (Energy Efficiency employment is defined as the production or installation of energy efficiency products certified by the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program or installed pursuant to the ENERGY STAR® program guidelines or supporting services thereof). Almost 1.4 million Energy Efficiency jobs are in the construction industry. In addition, construction firms involved in the Energy Efficiency sector have experienced an increase in the percentage of their workers who spend at least 50% of their time on Energy Efficiency-related work, rising from 64.8 percent in 2015 to 74.0 percent in 2016. Finally, an improved USEER survey methodology identified almost 290,000 manufacturing jobs, producing Energy Star® certified products and energy efficient building materials in the United States.
The Motor Vehicles and Component Parts industry employs just over 2.4 million workers, exclusive of auto dealerships. Currently, more than 259,000 employees work with alternative fuels vehicles, including natural gas, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all electric, and fuel cell/hydrogen vehicles, an increase of 69,000 jobs in 2016. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all electric vehicles make up over 76 percent of this number, supporting 198,000 employees. Over 489,000 employees of Motor Vehicles Parts companies are now contributing to more fuel efficient vehicles. One-sixth (17%) of all firms involved in Motor Vehicle component parts derive all of their revenue from products that increase fuel economy for Motor Vehicles. At least 710,000 jobs in the Motor Vehicle sector are focused on increasing fuel economy or transitioning to alternative fuels.1
Overall, firms covered by the survey anticipate roughly five percent employment growth for 2017. Energy Efficiency employers project the highest growth rate over the next 12 months (nine percent), followed by Electric Power Generation (seven percent); Transmission, Distribution, and Storage (six percent), and Motor Vehicles (just over three percent, although manufacturing will remain flat). The Fuels sector reported an expected decline of about three percent over the next 12 months.
These energy-related sectors are relatively less diverse compared to the overall national workforce. Women are a smaller portion of the workforce in these sectors, ranging from 22 to 34 percent, compared to the overall economy, where women make up 47 percent of the workforce. The percentage of ethnic and racial minorities is slightly lower than the national average for Hispanic or Latino workers (14 percent versus 16 percent) and Black or African American workers (eight percent versus 12 percent). Veterans, however, comprise about one in ten workers, higher than the national average of seven percent. About 22 percent of the workforce is 55 years of age or older; this proportion is significantly higher in Fuels and Motor Vehicles, but lower in Generation; Transmission, Distribution, and Storage; and Energy Efficiency.
Almost three-quarters of employers across these sectors (73 percent) reported difficulty hiring qualified workers over the last 12 months; 26 percent noted it was very difficult.
As reported in the findings of the 2017 USEER, the country’s Traditional Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Motor Vehicle sectors have contributed significant gains to the U.S. economy and now represent more than 6% of all jobs nationwide. Rebuilding our energy infrastructure and modernizing the grid, diversifying our energy mix, and reducing our energy consumption in both our built environment and motor vehicles, America’s labor markets are being revitalized by our new energy and transportation technologies.
But within this overall story of growth is also an uneven trajectory where some states experience new jobs and others grapple with decline. States such as California and Texas, which have abundant solar, wind, and fossil fuel resources, have shown dramatic employment gains, despite some losses linked to low fossil fuel prices. Coal-dependent states, such as West Virginia and Wyoming, have seen declines in employment since 2015. This is the challenge that the 2017 USEER and its successor reports are designed to address at the national and local level. Evidence-based approaches are essential to ensuring a competitive energy economy and a workforce that is adaptable to meet 21st Century challenges. The data in the 2017 USEER provides federal, state, and local leaders critical labor market metrics to realize this vision. The report also finds that firms covered by the survey anticipate roughly five percent employment growth for 2017, representing a significant source of economic growth and development for both local communities and the nation.