Has the clean energy economy arrived?

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By Elisa Wood

June 18, 2009

We’ve seen many forecasts that show the clean energy industry boosting future US job growth. But a Pew Charitable Trust study released last week indicates that green job creation isn’t just a thing of the future; it’s been emerging for several years.

From 1998 and 2007, clean energy jobs increased by 9.1%, while total jobs grew by only 3.7% nationally, according to “The Clean Energy Economy.” http://www.pewtrusts.org. In all, clean technology accounted for 770,000 jobs in 68,200 businesses by 2007.

States showed a similar trend.  The clean energy economy outperformed overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia during the same period.

What’s interesting is that the growth occurred before the influx of federal stimulus funds for clean energy. So what will the clean energy job market look like after $85 billion makes its way into the economy? Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew Center on the States,  envisions nothing less than “explosive growth.”

The report also shows that Americans are clearly on board with the idea of pursuing energy efficiency. In 2007, alone, consumers purchased more than 500 million Energy Star® products, up 67% from the previous year.

As the economy recovers, what kind of jobs will the efficiency industry produce?  Expect demand for  workers “who make and distribute software and meters to monitor energy consumption and who manufacture and install efficient glass and lighting, along with service-related jobs that help companies and individuals improve home or business energy use,” the report says.

Regulators see the writing on the wall in New York, which intends to meet 45% of its energy needs from renewables and efficiency by 2015. They are concerned the state will lack enough clean energy workers. So the state public service commission this week approved $6.6 million to train workers for energy efficiency jobs.

The commission described the money as only a “bridge” until it can get federal stimulus dollars to further ramp up training, and said it hopes to avoid “bottlenecks” in programs caused by lack of workers.

True, the clean energy economy has been hurt like all sectors. Venture capital investments dropped in 2008, Pew says. But the downturn appears to be only a dip in what has been – and by all accounts will be — an upward trajectory in clean energy growth for several years.

Visit Elisa Wood at www.realenergywriters.com and pick up her free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. robbert veerman says:

    Our gas turbine generator at Newport in Melbourne is efficient at 38% by world standards, but the world’s first by Edison in New York at 50% a century ago was better because it was a cogenerator. It harvested the waste heat. Modern machines so desgned can be 50% better again, thats 75%. The theoretical limit is still higher.
    What excuse is there for so many new plants under construction world wide at less than 40% efficiency?