Table Of Contents

    This fact sheet provides the number of “green” jobs in the United States as well as a more specific consideration of employment in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. According to Environmental Entrepreneurs, in 2012 alone the clean energy sector created 110,413 jobs. Job figures in renewable energy and energy efficiency were obtained by referring to studies and reports published by the Department of Energy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a host of non-profits, think tanks and national trade associations.


    Green Jobs in the United States

    The following map represents the percentage of green jobs to total jobs in each state using the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures on green jobs by state.

    According to a 2013 analysis by the BLS, in the fourth quarter of 2011 there were 3.4 million green jobs in the United States. Overall, green jobs represented 2.6 percent of jobs in the United States, although, as shown in the previous map, individual states have higher or lower percentages based on their total state employment.

    The BLS defines “green” jobs as those that “produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.” Additionally, jobs are categorized as green if the duties “involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.” The BLS definition of green jobs includes far more than just employment in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. In addition, the study includes: pollution reduction and removal; greenhouse gas reduction; recycling and reuse; organic agriculture; sustainable forestry; soil, water and wildlife conservation; government and regulatory administration; education, training and advocacy related to green technologies and practices. 

    A study performed by the Brookings Institution and Battelle found that 2.7 million people were directly employed in the “clean economy” in 2010, more than the 2.4 million employed in the fossil fuel industry. The clean economy is defined as employment “that produces goods and services with an environmental benefit or adds value to such products using skills or technologies that are uniquely applied to those products.” The Brookings-Battelle study includes: agricultural and natural resources conservation, education and compliance, energy and resource efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction, environmental management and recycling, and renewable energy.


    Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Employment

    The following sections compile the industry specific assessments of employment in the energy efficiency and renewable energy fields from national laboratories, industry groups and non-profits. Many of the assessments include direct and indirect employment. The figures for each technology were collected from different sources; therefore there are differences in data collection methodology and specific job categorizations, which are noted in the tables below.


    Energy Efficiency 

    In 2008, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated that 380,000 people were employed in the energy efficiency services sector. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), robust investment in energy efficiency could save $1.2 trillion by 2020, and the United States could create 1.3 to 1.9 million jobs by 2050 through the deployment of energy efficient technologies. Similarly, the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) projects 1.3 million jobs by 2030.

    The following table is drawn from the Brookings-Battelle study, which has identified specific sectors within energy efficiency. Altogether the sectors provide 823,105 direct jobs.

    Type of Energy Efficiency

    U.S. Job Estimates

    Relation to Industry

    Public Mass Transit



    Energy-saving Building Materials



    HVAC and Building Control Systems



    Green Architecture and Construction Services



    Professional Energy Services






    Energy-saving Consumer Products



    Battery Technologies



    Smart Grid



    Electric Vehicle Technologies






    Water Efficient Products







    Renewable Energy 

    Biofuels: In a report commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association, the consulting firm Cardno-ENTRIX found that in 2012 the ethanol industry supported 383,260 jobs. Of these jobs, more than 87,000 were direct employment and the remainder were indirect or induced. For advanced (non-corn-based) biofuels, Environmental Entrepreneurs estimates that new refineries alone have the potential to create more than 18,000 jobs by 2015. Furthermore, if state and federal clean fuel standards are implemented as planned, the entire advanced biofuel industry could create up to 48,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs by 2015. 

    Hydropower: In 2010, the National Hydropower Association commissioned a Navigant Consulting report which concluded that between 200,000 and 300,000 people were employed by the U.S. hydropower industry in project development, manufacturing, project deployment, and operations and maintenance. According to the same study, 5.3 jobs are created for every megawatt of new small hydropower installed.

    Solar: The Solar Foundation estimated that the U.S. solar industry employed 119,016 workers as of November 2012. This is a 13.2 percent increase in employment from November 2011. When considering the 2.3 percent growth rate of employment in the overall economy during this time period, the solar industry’s 13.2 percent growth in employment means that the solar industry created 1 out of every 230 American jobs.

    Wind: According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the wind industry and related fields employed more than 80,000 Americans in 2012. This includes jobs associated with development, manufacturing, construction and operations, as well as services provided. According to a study by Navigant Consulting, a four-year extension of the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) would increase industry employment to 95,000 by 2016.

    Biodiesel: The National Biodiesel Board commissioned a report from Cardno-ENTRIX which found that the biodiesel industry employed 64,044 people in 2012 – when direct, indirect and induced jobs are included. The same study concluded that with the 2013 extension of the federal biodiesel tax credit, employment could increase to more than 112,000 in 2013.

    Geothermal: The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) estimated in 2010 that 1.7 direct jobs and 4.25 indirect and induced jobs are created for every megawatt of geothermal capacity installed. Based on the current installed geothermal capacity of 3,386 megawatts, the U.S. geothermal power industry employs 20,147 people.

    Biomass Power: According to the Biomass Power Association, the biomass power industry employs 14,000 people.- A 2011 REN21 study attributes a significantly higher figure of 66,000 jobs to biomass power.

    Fuel Cells: In February 2011, Fuel Cells 2000 estimated that 3,615 direct and 7,230 indirect jobs can be attributed to fuel cells, bringing the total to 10,845 jobs in the United States.

    Waste-to-Energy: The Energy Recovery Council reports that the waste-to-energy sector employs 7,000 Americans. There are 86 plants across the country.

    Wave & Ocean Power: According to the Brookings-Battelle Clean Economy Database, wave and ocean power employed 371 people in 2010. The sector experienced a 20.9 percent annual increase in employment from 2003 to 2010.

    The following table summarizes the job estimates for each of the aforementioned renewable energy technologies.

    Type of Clean Energy

    U.S. Job Estimates

    Relation to Industry



    Direct, Indirect & Induced


    200,000 – 300,000




    Direct-spend at least 50% of time working on solar



    Direct & Indirect



    Direct, Indirect & Induced



    Direct, Indirect & Induced


    14,000 – 66,000


    Fuel Cells


    Direct & Indirect




    Wave & Ocean Power




    903,536 1,055,536



    The Brookings-Battelle study also reports job figures in renewable energy, but differs from the table above in that only direct jobs are included. Technologies included in that Brookings-Battelle study are: hydropower, wind, solar photovoltaic, biofuels/biomass, solar thermal, waste-to-energy, geothermal, renewable energy services, and wave and ocean power. The sum total of that tally is 138,364 direct jobs.


    Author: Omar Bagnied

    Editor: Blaise Sheridan