Clean Energy Creates 2.5 Million Jobs in the U.S., with Energy Efficiency Paving the Way

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Image: Renewable energy employment in selected countries, from the report Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review. Courtesy of IRENA.

Originally published on theclimategroup.org

NEW YORK: More than 2.5 million Americans work in the clean energy sector, with the vast majority employed in the energy efficiency sector, anew study shows.

The ‘Clean Jobs America’ report, written by Environmental Entrepreneurs and based on an extensive survey and US Bureau of Labor Statistics data, indicates that to date 1.9 million US citizens are employed in the energy efficiency sector.

These numbers show the great potential of the clean energy sector in both tackling climate change and bolstering the economy, a convergence highlighted at the UN climate change negotiations in Paris that delivered the historic Paris Agreement.

In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that since the 1970s, energy efficiency improvements in 11 countries (Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States) saved the equivalent of 1,337 million tons of oil-equivalent in 2011 – or amount of energy released from burning one tonne of crude oil, an amount worth US$743 billion.

Moreover, increasing energy efficiency through innovative policies across Brazil, China, Europe, India, Mexico and the US is said to reduce costs by up to a combined US$250 billion per year, a report from ClimateWorks and Fraunhofer ISI explains.

MORE PRODUCTS, LESS POLLUTION

A complimentary side of energy efficiency is energy productivity, which consists of getting more economic output from each unit of energy. The US economy, the world’s second largest energy consumer, has taken to reforming its energy system through increasing its energy productivity nation-wide, which reached 13% from 2007 to 2015, according to the Sustainable Energy in America 2016 Factbook from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Smart businesses are taking to the opportunity. The EP100 campaign, of which The Climate Group serves as the Secretariat for, is a new, bold program that helps companies double their energy productivity, a goal endorsed by the US government. “Energy productivity creates job,” emphasizes Bryan Jacob, Campaign Director of EP100, The Climate Group.

RENEWABLE POWER

Renewable energy generation is the second largest job-creator for the clean sector, states the report, with nearly 414,000 people currently employed – primarily in the solar sector holding 300,000 jobs, followed by the wind sector with more than 77,000 people.

These numbers are even more impressive considering that the solar industry has added more than 115,000 jobs since 2010, the Solar Foundation states, which translates to a job creation-rate twelve times the rest of the economy in 2015.

The renewables sector is also booming thanks to the falling price of solar panels: after a new record year for solar panel installations in the US, a recent report explains that solar can – not only meet but power – more than 100 times the US’s current electricity needs.

POLICY FRAMEWORK

Such great progress are also result of forward-thinking policies many countries have and are currently implementing. At the sub-national level, where governments have a legislative proximity to their citizens, the job opportunities of clean energy are becoming mainstream.

In a bold commitment to expanding renewables across states and regions, the Canadian province of Alberta, which joined The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance during COP21 last December, announced it will invest CA$5 million (US$3.58 million) to help local authorities and farmers install more solar panels on their buildings and fields.

Such policies are fundamental to create a long-term framework that can help businesses plan ahead in their shift towards instituting a low carbon economy. Recent studies indicate that such pathways are not only good for the environment, but for the economy as well: doubling today’s share of renewable energy would create more than 24 million jobs by 2030 worldwide, boosting global GDP by up to US$1.3 trillion.

Renewable energy is also a central component of many business plans of those forward-thinking companies,as they consider the protection it provides from fluctuating prices of fossil fuels, as well as its ability to future-proof investments from carbon emission regulations. The Climate Group, in partnership with CDP, helps these companies with the RE100 campaign, which showcases the economic and environmental benefits of going 100% renewable.

“While recent policy gains are crucial factors in driving the industry forward, there is much more work to be done,” the ‘Clean Jobs America’ report concludes. “States can continue to enact and strengthen renewable portfolio standards and energy efficiency standards, or ensure utilities maximize energy in their resource plans. Doing so grows clean energy businesses and creates more good, high-paying jobs for work­ers” across the US.

by Ilario D’Amato