Clean energy jobs include not only specialized technical positions, but also manufacturing, transport, construction, management, finance, legal, marketing, sales, and service occupations. Clean energy investments can generate employment and other economic impacts in non-energy sectors, as well as industries specifically focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency. According to the American Solar Energy Society, the U.S. clean energy sector, narrowly defined, represented more than 9 million jobs and more than one trillion dollars in business revenue in 2007. The renewable energy and energy efficiency industry overall grew at roughly two to three times the growth rate of the U.S. economy between 2006 and 2007. Projected scenarios show potential growth to 37 million jobs and $4.2 trillion in annual revenue by 2030 with supportive policies, or 16 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in annual revenue under a “business-as-usual” scenario.

Clean transportation is a key part of the emerging clean energy economy. Public transportation is a special case in point, where energy efficiency investments can stimulate increases in productivity and economic activity elsewhere in the economy, as well as expand employment in different types of jobs. Such investments have shown benefits for a variety of communities—large and small—in all regions of the country. The Public Transportation Investment report featured in this briefing has documented the range of economic impacts and potential economic benefits associated with investments in public transportation.

On October 22, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing to examine employment trends and other economic indicators related to growing investment in clean energy and clean transportation. The briefing presented two new reports—Estimating the Jobs Impacts of Tackling Climate Change and Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment—that analyze data for a variety of job types, skill levels, and industries related to renewable energy and energy efficiency, including public transportation. Potential for future job growth, business revenue, productivity, and other economic factors were discussed.

  • Strategies to tackle climate change are projected to create 4.5 million net jobs by 2020. Job losses in some industries will be outweighed by job gains in many other industries.
  • Energy efficiency accounts for most of these new jobs, roughly 3.5 million. Renewable energy accounts for an additional 1 million net jobs. Energy efficiency job creation would tail off slightly after 2030 when many efficiency gains have been realized, while renewable energy jobs would continue to grow over time.
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies would generate $82 billion in annual savings to the economy as a whole through 2030.
  • Most new jobs would be in general occupations, not specialized areas. An estimated 85 to 95 percent of the net jobs generated would be within existing industries such as construction, and most workers will be able to transition into the clean energy economy without extensive retraining.
  • Job in clean energy industries pay above-average wages. Certain jobs requiring a college degree or technical skills pay particularly well.
  • Many clean energy jobs, especially those related to energy efficiency, are inherently performed on-site and cannot be outsourced to other countries. High-end manufacturing is subject to global competition, but will not account for majority of new jobs created.
  • Delay is costly. Economic benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy accrue over time. Delayed action foregoes the largest benefits which occur at the end of the planning time horizon (2030 or 2050). Inaction also cedes competitive advantages to other countries.
  • Public transportation investments have both short-term effects on the economy (jobs and spending) and long-term effects (increased efficiency, productivity, and cost savings).
  • Every $1 billion of public transportation investment creates 36,000 jobs, generates $ 1.8 billion in short-term economic benefit, and generates $1.7 billion in long-term economic benefit.
  • The $1.7 billion in long-term benefits include cost savings for those who use public transit instead of vehicles, savings for those who continue to use vehicles but experience less road congestion, and increased productivity as worker reliability improves and firms gain access to a broader labor market. These savings and productivity gains can enhance international competitiveness.
  • The direct economic benefits described in the APTA report do not include other important impacts of public transportation investment, such as quality of life, public health, and other social and environmental benefits.
  • Public transportation is already generating economic benefits in many cities and reducing annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 37 million tons.

Speaker Slides