The Department of Energy has just released a report that anticipates the addition of 198,000 new jobs in the energy efficiency sector for 2017. Based on his behavior before taking office, it’s a safe bet that US President-elect Donald Trump will not let the good news go unremarked upon. The PEOTUS has already credited himself with bringing thousands of new jobs to the US employment landscape since Election Day, so what’s a few thousand more?
The green jobs news is part of a broader energy sector employment analysis and forecast issued by the Energy Department, so let’s take a look and see what other goodies are in store.
Green Energy Jobs A-Go-Go
This is the second year in a row that the Energy Department has set itself to analyzing changes in employment relating to shifts in the US energy landscape.
The first analysis was issued in 2016 and it provided a snapshot of the previous year’s employment picture. This year the agency has reviewed the 2016 data and added a new survey of more than 30,000 employers in the energy and transportation fields, partly aimed at sussing out future trends for 2017.
You can find all the details for the 2017 report online under the title, “U.S. Energy and Employment Report.“
For those of you on the go, the juicy bits are summed up in narrative style by 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% of the new jobs in 2016.”
Yes, that 14% does include a healthy dose of natural gas, which at this point basically means shale gas. Keep in mind that the report covers all energy jobs, though — not just green jobs.
To pick out the findings on green jobs in the conventional sense of green (that is, energy efficiency and renewable energy), one key place to look is the section on energy efficiency jobs.
The survey revealed that employers in the energy efficiency sector anticipate hiring 198,000 more workers, or an increase of 9% over 2016.
Of course, some of that increase could be accounted for by the plethora of energy efficiency initiatives launched during the Obama Administration, but who’s counting?
More Energy Numbers, Please
The Energy Department is also leveraging the new report to make the case for more and better data collection (say, didn’t some other federal agency try something like that last summer?).
As described by the Energy Department, federal agencies that collect employment data have yet to catch up with changes in the energy marketplace.
The main source for employment statistics is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the Energy Department finds some pretty severe gaps in the available data:
The solar sector is an example of the limitation of BLS labor market data to completely capture employment across photovoltaic and Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technologies. Presently, BLS reports that utilities employ just over 2,800 workers for solar-specific generation. However, this figure does not count any jobs in the construction or other value chain industries for projects financed, owned, or directed by utilities.
The Energy Department goes on in some detail about the problem, but the gist of it is that the existing data “dramatically underestimate” the jobs added in the solar sector.
Be that as it may, according to the new report, about 373,807 Americans worked at least part time in the solar industry and supporting businesses in 2016, with about 260,077 putting in at least half of their time.
The really good news comes in when you look at workers who spend more than half of their time in solar:
Given high capacity additions across both distributed and utility-scale photovoltaic solar, the sector saw a growth rate of about 25 percent for workers that spend the majority of their time on solar work.
The good news keeps on coming in 2017. The employer survey indicates that the solar industry expects to increase employment by 7% in 2017.
Pretty Great News For Wind Jobs
According to the survey, wind employers expect jobs to grow in 2017, though at about 4% the pace will be a little slower than in the solar sector.
On the other hand, from 2015 to 2016 wind employment grew by 32%, so maybe it’s time to take a breather.
Employment for 2016, according to the report, stood at 101,738.
Get Working On Those Coal Jobs!
Moving along to the report’s section on coal (page 40), PEOTUS Trump has his work cut out for him if he’s going to bring coal jobs back to the US the way he promised — pretty often — on the 2016 campaign trail.
Coal mining and support employment declined by 39% from March 2009 (93,439) to March 2016 (57,325) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a 24% decline in the last year alone.
Interestingly, the report illustrates why the coal industry can no longer count on construction employment to boost its overall numbers. That’s no wonder considering that, according to the report, coal’s share of the US energy mix has fallen about 53% since 2006 (don’t blame wind and solar for that — so far the drop in coal is almost entirely due to competition from cheap natural gas):
…the majority of coal employment is still concentrated across both mining and utilities. With fewer capacity additions compared to other generation technologies, the construction industry accounts for only about five percent of the sector’s workforce.
Other employment sectors that indirectly support the coal industry probably felt the pain, too, though the 2009 data is not available for comparison. That would include professional and business services as well as manufacturing, transportation, etc.
…And Natural Gas, Too?
After experiencing a nice run of growth during the Obama Administration, the natural gas power generating industry could be in for a rude awakening under President Trump.
The employer survey indicates that employment in the natural gas power generating sector is expected to practically flatline in 2017 with a 1% growth rate.
With the cost of wind and solar still sinking, the gas power generating industry may be in for some hard times, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.
There are many, many more details in the 2017 report, including a breakdown of labor diversity in each sector. It’s only 87 pages long and well worth a read, so check it out.
For more information on employment in the US wind and solar sectors, you can also check into the trade associations, AWEA and SEIA.
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Image: via US DOE.
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