While many business leaders, economists and US government representatives, including President Obama, view the fast-growing US renewable energy and clean technology sectors as economic engines that can go a long way toward assuring healthy job creation for decades to come, others have staunchly opposed public sector support for their development. The stalemate has resulted in a stop-and-go federal clean energy policy that in turn has produced recurring cycles of boom-and-bust.
Surveying a professional membership of more than 14,000, the non-profit Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) found that there’s growing demand for energy efficiency, green collar and renewable energy professionals. Driving hiring in the diverse green energy sector is a dwindling supply of US energy professionals, according to the AEE’s “Green Jobs: Survey of the Energy Industry“:
- Thirty-two percent of the 1,934 energy professionals who responded to the AEE’s survey plan to retire in the next ten years.
- Sixty-seven percent (67%) of energy professionals indicate a heightened shortage of qualified professionals in the energy efficiency and renewable energy fields in the next five years.
- Seventy-two percent (72%) of energy professionals indicate a need for national and state training for “Green Jobs” to address job shortages that are impairing growth in green industries, such as energy efficient buildings and construction, renewables, electric power, smart grid, energy efficient vehicles and bio fuels development.
A Green Energy Economy US Jobs Engine?
“By 2020, clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $2.3 trillion,” the AEE cites a March, 2010 Center for American Progress (CAP) report.
“Results from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 are bearing out this hypothesis, proving that clean energy carries substantial job creation potential,” state Richard Caperton and Adam Hersh in a March, 2011 CAP article.
“Three specific clean energy programs—the Treasury cash grant in lieu of a tax credit (known as the 1603 program), the advanced energy manufacturing tax credit (known as the 48C program), and the Department of Energy loan guarantee program—have cost the government about $7 billion—only 1 percent of Recovery Act funding—but have leveraged more than $12 billion in private capital and account for more than 13 percent of the jobs created directly by Recovery Act funding.”
Pres. Obama was the driving force behind the introduction of a federal government program requiring government buildings to be retrofitted to enhance energy efficiency, as well as make use of cleaner, renewable energy sources. The benefits are manifold as the initiative gradually ripples across private sector commercial and residential property markets.
Energy-efficiency building retrofits is one of “several, substantial, durable drivers” that in addition to cost savings and job creation “are attractive for purposes of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, energy independence, green branding, property valuation and productivity,” according to a March, 2011 Pike Research report.
Moreover, contrary to popular belief, the introduction of stronger industry environmental and energy conservation standards resulted in job creation, the AEE notes. A January 2011 report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that “national appliance energy efficiency standards for common household products generated about 340,000 jobs in 2010,” some 0.2% of all jobs created nationwide.
Job Creation: Quality Matters
Second in importance to quantity is the quality of job creation. And that’s an area where green energy job creation rates highly overall. Green energy jobs are relatively high-paying. It’s a diverse sector of the energy market with a long-term hiring outlook that’s above average. Base salaries averaged $96,683 p.a. with annual bonuses averaging $7,356 as of January 1, 2010, AEE found.
Furthermore, the green energy sector offers a long-term career path where ongoing education and training opens up growth opportunities for employees and produces measurable rewards for employers. Professional certification in the green energy sector results in enhanced career success, according to AEE’s report:
- Seventy-four percent (74%) of energy professionals surveyed responded that their company had benefited since they had received their certification
- Eighty-six percent (86%) of energy professionals surveyed indicated that, since receiving their certification, their company has been able to respond to more requests for proposals
- Fifty-two (52%) of energy professionals survey indicate that they are receiving higherprofessional visibility since receiving their certification
The AEE puts out and administers a range of green energy job and career resources, including a career website with current job openings and a resume databank. Free educational resources include an energy industry dictionary of terms, free access to green energy white papers, an industry news portal and professional reference books.
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.