By Rachel Koning Beals
From roof-top solar installers to the technicians upgrading your home HVAC and green-minded urban planners, more than 3.2 million Americans now work in “clean energy” as of the start of 2022. And while California remains a leader, hiring has spanned red and blue political states from all regions.
It’s a job total that’s up 5% from a year earlier, says nonprofit advocacy organization — and as it claims, nonpartisan — E2, which stands for Environmental Entrepreneurs.
“This data shows clean energy jobs are not red state jobs or blue state jobs — they’re red, white and blue jobs,” said Bob Keefe, E2’s executive director.
The year-over-year growth would have been stronger without the uncertainty brought by wavering lawmakers in Washington mulling incentives for solar, heat pumps, electric vehicles (EVs) and more, said E2, which has advocated for federal movement on clean-energy incentives.
This weekend, the Senate advanced the seemingly left-for-dead healthcare, climate and tax package after a marathon session , a slimmer version of what was once labeled Build Back Better and that is now called the Inflation Reduction Act.
The House, where Democrats also hold a slight majority, will vote on Friday. No Republicans voted “yes,” as GOP senators argued the measure wouldn’t address soaring inflation but would sock Americans with higher taxes. The bill would devote $369 billion to climate policies such as tax credits for solar panels, wind turbines and EVs, and to tackle the impact of pollution on low-income communities.
President Biden has argued that clean energy, and the technology needed to produce it, can be a boon to American jobs. Already, the broader job market has remained tight, favoring job seekers, even as murmurs of a recession grow. The strong job market — recent data showed the unemployment rate matching that from the 1960s — may help more workers explore growth areas such as green energy and other climate-minded fields.
As for the E2 report , growth spanned every clean-energy subsector. Those subsectors include renewable energy, such as wind, solar /zigman2/quotes/205740995/composite ICLN -2.45% and geothermal, to energy efficiency, electric /zigman2/quotes/203558040/lastsale TSLA +0.25% and hybrid vehicle /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -1.17% parts and manufacturing, as well as power grid modernization /zigman2/quotes/201480230/composite DUK -2.74% /zigman2/quotes/200558509/composite NEE -1.60% . Conversely, traditional fossil fuel jobs from the coal, oil /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 -2.37% and natural gas /zigman2/quotes/210189548/delayed NG00 +0.66% sectors fell 4%, E2 says, using Department of Energy jobs data in its analysis.
E2 began tracking nationwide employment across the entire clean energy sector in 2015. The E2 site allows viewers to search by zip code to gauge how strong clean energy jobs are in their area. The tool has 2020 data for now, with an update slated for fall.
“Good-paying clean energy jobs are now an important part of the economy in every state, regardless of politics, location or anything else,” said Troy Van Beek, co-founder and CEO of Iowa-based solar developer Ideal Energy.
The estimated likely total pay in the renewable-energy sector, according to Glassdoor, is $131,337 per year in the United States, with an average salary of $96,438 per year. These numbers represent the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from Glassdoor’s “total pay” model. Additional pay could include cash bonuses, commissions, tips and profit sharing.
This state (and it’s not California) logged the biggest percentage growth in clean jobs
Every state saw an increase in clean energy occupations, with California continuing to lead the nation with more than 505,000 new jobs (up 4%). Traditional and alternative energy-producer Texas, which led the country in solar and wind energy projects in 2021, followed with 239,000 clean energy jobs (up 7%).
And New York, which passed what some would say are the mostambitious climate policies in the country in 2019, and in 2021 made major announcements in offshore wind and building efficiency , remains third in the country with 160,600 jobs (up 5%).
The list fills out from there with, in order: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
New Mexico, meanwhile, saw the biggest percentage growth in clean energy jobs last year after it passed clean energy policies , E2 said, calling them “some of the most promising policies in the country.” Growth also picked up in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Indiana and Idaho.
EV parts and assembly
Clean vehicles were the big story in 2022. Jobs building electric vehicles grew by a dramatic 26% from a year earlier, according to E2.
The report covers the period before an announcment this summer that electric pickup truck maker Rivian /zigman2/quotes/230726939/composite RIVN +0.86% , which has Amazon.com /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +1.20% backing, would lay off 6% of its workforce , although not at its Illinois plant.
Many Republican-led states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Texas and Tennessee, benefitted greatly from expansions of EV and other clean transportation manufacturers, and also would benefit from electric vehicle tax credits included in the Inflation Reduction Act, even though their Washington representation tends to vote against these measures, Keefe said.
In the bill nearing final congressional passage, new EVs must include a battery that features a large percentage of components that were manufactured or assembled in North America in order to qualify for the incentives.
Not to be outdone, small businesses, the backbone of America’s economy some say, continue to employ the majority of the clean energy workforce.
About 90% of all clean energy jobs were at companies that employed fewer than 100 workers, says E2.
“Policy matters. The Inflation Reduction Act would make it more affordable for more Americans to drive electric vehicles, which means more opportunities for small businesses like mine to keep growing,” said Ariel Fan, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based electric vehicle car charging company GreenWealth Energy.
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