The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and E4TheFuture held a briefing on the growing number of Americans employed in the energy efficiency sector. The latest report from the nonprofit groups E4TheFuture and Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) reveals a vibrant and growing part of the economy focused on helping homeowners and businesses make the most of their power supply. The briefing showcased the perspectives of industry analysts and insiders on why energy efficiency is one of the most dynamic parts of the U.S. economy today.
Energy efficiency added more new jobs than any other industry in the entire U.S. energy sector in 2017, and now employs nearly 2.25 million Americans. As the fastest-growing part of the energy sector, efficiency now employs twice as many workers as all fossil fuel industries combined and accounts for 35 percent of all U.S. energy jobs overall. There are more energy efficiency workers than there are elementary and middle school teachers.
Philip Jordan, Vice-President, BW Research Partnership
- The report published by E4TheFuture and E2, for which BW Research Partnership conducted surveys and gathered data, identified considerable growth in the energy efficiency sector, which now accounts for 2.25 million jobs [twice as many as all fossil fuel industries combined].
- Many energy efficiency jobs are local, so they are harder to outsource or automate.
- Energy efficiency jobs are very diverse and cover administration, construction, manufacturing, design, and installation, among other areas.
- The construction industry makes up the largest portion of energy efficiency jobs: HVAC installation and building envelope work are the two largest segments.
- Small businesses are key players in the energy efficiency job sector: businesses with 5 employees or less make up 46 percent of energy efficiency employers.
- Businesses are looking to hire members of Generation Z as the energy efficiency sector continues to grow. Because that generation most highly values work that is interesting and that also delivers social benefits, energy efficiency should be framed as such.
- Students have career aspirations that do not always match employers’ needs, so basing workforce development plans on employers’ preferences may not ensure that students end up filling those needs. Engaging with students earlier on in their academic careers may help us more accurately identify trends in job sector growth.
- The overriding theme is that employers, especially small business contractors, could expand but are finding it difficult to find adequate workforce.
Pat Stanton, Director of Policy, E4TheFuture
- The energy efficiency industry is geographically distributed and occupationally diverse, and workers often do not identify as working in the industry. This means that the workforce is difficult to describe.
- E4TheFuture runs informational campaigns to encourage discussion about energy efficiency jobs. Through their Faces of EE Jobs initiative, the organization has interviewed and photographed industry workers from all 50 states to shed light on the sector.
- Information in the national report is broken down by state and Congressional district to show Congressional representatives how energy efficiency impacts their constituents.
- Maps and graphs make the data more accessible and comprehensible for policymakers and potential employees.
David Terry, Executive Director, National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO)
- State officials are excited about the new information found in the E4TheFuture and E2 report.
- Jobs data helps state governments identify what types of additional training are needed for underemployed workers to move up the ladder and what skills and education are needed by employers looking to increase their workforce.
- Two major factors are inhibiting the growth of the energy efficiency industry, particularly when it comes to retrofitting public sector buildings: (1) public officials have limited time to focus on making these investments happen, and (2) workers lack the appropriate skillset.
- Data on energy efficiency jobs helps governors determine how to target workforce development programs to meet employers’ needs. Governor Cuomo of New York used the E4TheFuture and E2 report when designing his new workforce training initiative.
Ryan Weitzel, Regional Director, FLC Energy
- Energy efficiency is relevant to anyone who interacts with a building.
- Health and safety—and the comfort they provide—matter more to Ryan's customers than the cost of energy.
- There has recently been more demand for FLC Energy’s services, but the company has found it difficult to hire additional workers to meet this demand. It is hard to find employees who are willing and able to handle hands-on fieldwork.
- Weatherization assistance is a wonderful opportunity for low-income homeowners to reduce their energy costs. Savings of 30 to 50 percent are possible.
- Energy efficiency is quantifiable, which is a major selling point. Testing the R-value of insulation or the efficiency of a system both before and after retrofitting can show measurable improvement to a building’s efficiency.
Grant Carlisle, Director of Advocacy, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)
- The national report is the most detailed ever on energy efficiency jobs.
- Veterans are represented in the energy efficiency sector at a rate twice the national average.
- Policies at the federal and state levels are important because of the interjurisdictional structure of utility markets and because these energy efficiency jobs are spread across the country.
Efficiency jobs are distributed across the country (there are energy efficiency workers in 99.7 percent of all U.S. counties), with the top ten states in terms of total jobs including California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. More than 315,500 of all energy efficiency jobs are based in manufacturing, and such jobs experienced a 10 percent increase in 2017 alone. Efficiency jobs encompass contractors, factory workers, and professionals and can be found in lighting, HVAC, renewable heating & cooling, building materials/insulation, and manufacturing Energy Star–labeled appliances. The E2 report also lays out recommendations for federal policymakers, including approaches to funding infrastructure investments, renewing the commercial and residential building tax credits, maintaining the federal State Energy Program and Weatherization Assistance Program, and continuing EPA's Energy Star program.
The National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative published their U.S. Energy and Employment Report in May 2018, providing additional insight into jobs in all energy supply and demand sectors including efficiency, as well as state-by-state snapshots. The report found that total U.S. energy employment increased in 2017 by two percent, representing seven percent of all the jobs added to America's workforce during that period.