Energy Efficiency is Fuel for Jobs of the Future
Energy Efficiency is Fuel for Jobs of the Future
Changes wrought by technologies have impacted jobs for generations. Our most recent technology revolution - the internet and computers - is no exception. IT revolution brought automation, which is challenging traditional industries dependent on a large workforce, while growing a demand for the energy needed to keep those computers and machines running. What this means for jobs is that expectations about the jobs of the future must be seen through the lens of energy.
There are two facets of energy: making it (generation) and using it (demand). Managing demand means efficiently using our energy resources so that we create less. Energy efficiency is the least expensive and cleanest form of energy generation.
A report compiled by BW Research for E4TheFuture and E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) outlines the current promise of efficiency jobs, providing a state-by-state analysis of where the jobs are and what they focus on. According to the report, there are more workers in energy efficiency than in major sectors like real estate or food manufacturing. Such jobs are part of the construction industry, which raises the total impacted by new efficiency technologies exponentially. As Bob Keefe, E2’s Executive Director said:
“Every newly elected lawmaker in Washington or in the statehouse needs to take note: If you truly want to create jobs and drive economic growth, you need to support strong energy efficiency standards and policies. Smart policies helped create 1.9 million energy efficiency jobs, and smart policies will keep these made-in-America jobs growing – reducing our electricity bills and improving our environment along the way.”
Small and Local: Community Impact
This report is especially significant because public perception of energy or 'green' jobs is often limited to solar on the generation side and insulating windows on the efficiency side. This view has led to a misunderstanding of the potential for employment across many sectors, which can help communities diversify. One surprising aspect of the report is that it shows that 71% are small businesses -- those with 10 or fewer employees -- that receive at least half their income from energy efficiency. Small and local translates into resiliency for communities for many reasons. In addition to bringing new jobs, such businesses lower dependence on energy resources that can stress communities, while building local resources and expertise needed for local disasters. As Steve Cowell, E4TheFuture’s president said:
“This report is important to demonstrate that energy efficiency is a significant driver of jobs in this country and often is overlooked because it involves so many small businesses that incorporate energy efficiency as part of their portfolio, These jobs have been and should be recognized as part of the overall plan for a reliable, cost-effective and environmentally beneficial energy strategy for our country and should be supported by policy and investment strategies at the local, state and national levels.”
Education & Training
The range of opportunities is broad, but as state and local regulations continue to mandate efficiency, especially in new construction, states will need skilled workers. During warming summers, as they have for the last three years, demands on cooling will impact the reliability of energy throughout the United States. Florida and Texas have created public policies that support thousands of energy efficiency jobs due to the increased need for cooling. This trend is raising the need for training in new technologies, metrics, installation practices and system integration. Already, companies are experiencing difficulties hiring in order to grow. Such businesses cite a lack of experience as their number one problem, coupled with lack of training or technical skills.
But what is a problem for businesses is an opportunity for educators, especially community colleges, to emphasize the skills needed in the growing energy efficiency industry. As shown above, these skills include professional services in finance and law, as well as engineering, construction where additional training can move a worker from a day worker in construction to a long term solar installer, a plumber to an efficiency expert in commercial chillers, accountants into project managers or financiers and so forth.
It is an opportunity that is not to be ignored, both for future workers and for the stability of our energy supply.
1.9 Million Jobs: Where Does Your State Stand?
The following overviews are excerpts from the report. For a full description of your state, please download the full report.
Multifamily buildings are another often-missed opportunity.
Many utilities have realized success with programs and there are models that work.: The group Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) notes that more than half of affordable apartments were built more than 50 years ago, and they are home to some 10 million people. EEFA estimates that retrofits to a low income home could reduce the energy burden for that home by up to 30 percent.
The state received a perfect score in building codes, combined heat and power, state-led initiatives, appliance standards, and transportation. It’s now poised to go even further, having passed aggressive legislation aimed at doubling the state’s energy efficiency savings by 2030 and increasing access to energy use data. Utility energy efficiency programs also play a major role in California’s energy efficiency economy.
California recently addressed a gap [in multi-family housing] by approving changes to its Energy Savings Assistance program that will extend efficiency improvements to rent-subsidized multifamily homes. It allocated $80 million toward energy-saving measures such as central water heaters and common area lighting.
There are about 106,000 energy efficiency workers across the state of Florida… Of these, almost half report that traditional HVAC technologies are their main focus, followed by advanced material and insulation and high efficiency HVAC, which is to be expected given the prevalence of air conditioning across the state. Florida has a significant cohort of engineering and research firms: They make up a fifth of the activity, second to installation at 45 percent. [T]he Public Service Commission approved requests from utilities in 2014 to decrease the level of energy efficiency offered to customers in the future.
[The] state’s 89,830 energy efficiency workers [are] primarily concentrated among three sub-technologies: traditional HVAC, advanced materials and insulation, and efficient lighting. Illinois is one of the few states to earn a perfect score in the building codes and compliance category... . The Future Energy Jobs Bill was supported by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, [of] which E2 was a member. The bill also fixes the state’s broken renewable portfolio standard, and creates a new program job training program that will open up access to the solar economy for millions of low-income families.
About 30 percent of [78,202] workers dedicate more time to efficiency than other tasks. According to Clean Jobs Midwest, the state saw a 56-percent decrease in wind energy jobs in 2015 likely due to … [the two-year freeze on clean energy standards] and the current over-regulation of wind turbines. The majority of Ohio’s energy efficiency employees spend most of their time working with traditional HVAC goods and services, followed by advanced materials and insulation and the manufacture of ENERGY STAR® appliances.
About half of the 31,360 energy efficiency-focused workers in Texas are in traditional HVAC technologies, followed by efficient lighting with almost 5,000 workers (16 percent) of total employment. Like Florida, Texas has extreme temperatures, which explains in part the high percentage of HVAC workers, and a large population spread across several major cities as well as some of the most rural regions of the United States. The state was the first to implement an energy efficiency resource standard, but targets are very low.
Through its Reforming the Energy Vision program (NY REV), New York is working to reshape the utility industry and integrate distributed energy resources generated locally. The state has a diverse energy efficiency workforce of 69,704, half of whom work in a range of unclassified sub-technologies, followed by 19 percent in advanced materials and insulation and 17 percent in traditional HVAC. Part of New York’s success is also its involvement in the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). In addition to helping cut carbon pollution in the power sector much faster than anticipated, RGGI has provided at least $2.9 billion in regional economic growth, $10 billion in health benefits, 30,000 new job-years (a job-year equals one-year of full-time work), and $618 million in energy bill savings for consumers (with $4 billion more in savings expected in the coming years).
Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital.
E4TheFuture—formerly Conservation Services Group (CSG)—is a nonprofit organization that promotes residential clean energy and sustainable resource solutions to advance climate protection and economic fairness by influencing federal, state and local policies, and by helping to build a resilient and vibrant energy efficiency and clean energy sector. CSG provided lowcost energy solutions 1984-2015 in over half of U.S. states helping to improve over 3.8 million homes.
BW Research Partnership
BW Research Partnership is a full-service, economic and workforce research consulting firm with offices in Carlsbad, California, and Wrentham, Massachusetts. It is a leading provider of accurate, comprehensive clean energy research studies, including the National Solar Census, wind industry analysis for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and state-level clean energy reports for Massachusetts, Illinois, Vermont, Iowa, and Florida, among others.