Rapid Growth in Energy Efficiency and Infrastructure Jobs

Changes in the nation’s  energy profile are affecting national employment in key sectors of the economy, according to the Department of Energy’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, which  tracked dramatic growth in several key sectors of the U.S. economy in 2016.

“This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy,” said DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster.  “Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent  of the new jobs in 2016.”

Some key findings of the report include:

  • 6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and energy efficiency industries. which added over 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, 14 percent of the nation’s job growth.
  • Energy efficiency jobs increased by 133,000 jobs for a total of 2.2 million.
  • Investments in energy transmission, distribution and storage (the energy infrastructure) generated 65,000 new jobs.
  • Solar industry employment jumped by over 73,000 jobs or 25 perent.
  • Wind industry employment added 25,000 new jobs to land at 102,000.

The report examines four sectors of the economy— electric power generation and fuels; transmission, wholesale distribution, and storage; energy efficiency; and motor vehicles —which cumulatively account for almost all of the United States’ energy production and distribution system and roughly 70 percent of U.S. energy consumption. By looking at such a wide portion of the energy economy, the report can provide the public and policy makers with a clearer picture of how changes in energy technology, systems, and usage are affecting the economy and creating or displacing jobs.

Additional findings of the new report include:

  • Of the 1.9 million workers in electric power generation and fuels, 800,000 employees contribute to the production of low-carbon electricity, including renewable energy, nuclear energy and low emission natural gas.
  • Roughly 32 percent of the 6.5 million employees in the U.S. construction industry work on energy or building energy efficiency projects.
  • In an analysis of the 2.4 million employees in the Motor Vehicles industry, the 2017 report identified 259,000 jobs supported by alternative fuels vehicles, an increase of 69,000 during 2016.

The report also found several energy industries with projected increases in new jobs. Responding to the survey of employers, the energy efficiency sector predicted hiring rates of 9 percent in 2017, or 198,000 new hires. Projected hiring rates were at 7 percent within the electric power generation sector. Transmission, wholesale distribution, and storage firms anticipate 6 percent employment growth in 2016. However, the Fuels sector predicts a decline of 3 percent during 2017.

Yet even as the report found the opportunity for job growth in many energy sectors, 73 percent of all employers surveyed found it “difficult or very difficult” to hire new employees with needed skills.  This represented a slight increase in hiring difficulty over the previous year.

The 2017 report also provides individual state energy and employment profiles for the first time.  The state reports highlight the growth and loss of jobs in particular energy sectors across the country and will provide a useful tool for state energy offices and economic development agencies.  State profiles demonstrate the unevenness of growth in new energy technologies.  For instance, 41 percent of all solar jobs are in California, while 24 percent of all wind jobs are in Texas.

The report relies on primary data collected on behalf of DOE and secondary data from the Department of Labor’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages for Q1 of 2016. This approach provides a quantitative analysis of how the four sectors provide direct employment across the economy within other occupations. DOE will conduct subsequent surveys to provide annual reports that will provide year-over-year analysis of the American energy employment landscape.

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