What is an Energy Efficiency Job?
When we released out latest Virginia Energy Efficiency Industry Census report this spring, we found that revenue generated from the energy efficiency sector has grown from nearly $300 million in 2013 to $1.5 billion in 2016. And we noted U.S. Department of Energy stats that the industry is responsible for 75,000 jobs across the state. Indeed, it is a huge part of the new Virginia economy.
But it raises an important question. Just what kind of jobs count as “energy efficiency jobs”?
From architects and contractors designing, building, and renovating more efficient buildings, energy auditors testing a building’s performance, HVAC contractors installing high-performance systems, to energy managers for cities and counties trying to find ways to save their residents money, and weatherization providers helping low-income residents save money on their own energy bills, and to those working to shape public policy or develop software to monitor energy use, the list goes on.
Here are 5 examples of energy efficiency jobs:
1. Sustainability Directors
At the county or city level of government, this position is in charge of ensuring that a local government is meeting its goals for sustainability and energy use. Efficient use of energy is the first step in becoming environmentally friendly, and as local governments work towards their goals of sustainability, energy efficiency is a high priority. Monitoring energy use, educating employees on their usage, as well as ensuring government-owned buildings meet efficient standards are all a part of a Sustainability Director’s job.
As if being tasked to track and monitor government energy usage isn’t a handful already, here’s just taste of the laundry list of responsibilities a sustainability director undertakes: coordinate city or county wide strategies that promote sustainable and green practices; identify methods and policies (typically through benchmarking); work with community groups to integrate green design into their projects; increase the use of energy efficient products and engineering; develop and implement the systems to track and monitor efforts across City departments; serve as an outreach coordinator to build strong relationships with partner organizations and field experts; and develop education materials for contractors and homeowners. The list goes on in this vital job to successfully implement energy efficiency policies at the local level.
Note that the exact job title varies. The person responsible for overseeing this work might, using VAEEC member City of Charlottesville as an example, be the City’s Environmental Administrator or up in Arlington they have an Energy Manager.
2. Energy Service Companies
An energy service company or ESCO provides a broad range of energy solutions including the design and implementation of energy savings projects, retrofitting, energy conservation, energy infrastructure outsourcing, power generation and energy supply, and risk management. VAEEC members like Johnson Controls, Siemens, Southland and Trane have helped entities like grammar schools, universities and state government facilities like the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Corrections to upgrade their facilities and save taxpayer money.
Expanding the performance-based contracting that ESCOs offer was one of VAEEC’s five policy recommendations in our recent “Why Energy Efficiency is a Smart Investment for Virginia” report.
3. Software and Monitoring
As we live in a world increasingly connected through the internet and our devices, our energy use corresponds to our increasing reliance on technology. In turn, our energy use can be monitored through the internet and innovative software. Customer engagement and interactive applications allow energy consumers to monitor their energy usage from any device. The concept is simple: if you know how much you’re using then you know where to cut back. However, the monitoring required to provide customers with this information and the comparisons of what’s “good usage” vs “bad usage” are complex.
VAEEC member Oracle is one company that provides this information in an easy to use format. Taking the best of their paper Home Energy Reports, they format is to fit an easy to use and easy to engage system that emails customers directly about their energy usage. Customers using Oracle’s services can save up to 3% annually from this kind of direct engagement and awareness of their energy usage. Not only that but the Cloud services that Oracle provides allows people to store energy data, track it and compare it from a massive database of energy information.
4. Weatherization Providers
Weatherization projects allow homes to better withstand the elements, keeping interiors cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Instead of relying heavily on heating and cooling systems which expend energy, weatherization offers a more permanent solution through durable projects such as double paned windows, and insulating walls and attics. Homes are often neglected when it comes to weatherization, and this is especially true of low income families who have to prioritize their budgets. Low-income families often wind up spending a large portion of their monthly income on energy bills, and while weatherization alleviate energy costs the upfront expense can be daunting.
Project:Homes, a VAEEC member, offers services such as air sealing, insulation, LED lightbulbs and water savers to help low-income families make their homes more efficient. This not only increases property value, but makes the homes more comfortable to live in and saves homeowners and renters money on energy bills. Other Project:Homes initiatives such as “Keep It Cool RVA!” have helped provide window units and AC to those in need during the hottest months.
5. Contractors, Homebuilders + Technicians
You’re looking for a new house with energy efficient features or want to do a remodel with energy savings and sustainability in mind? There’s a contractor for that. Is it time to replace your HVAC system or just need a service heading into winter (or summer)? There’s a HVAC technician for that. Need some work or cleaning of your ducts to improve efficiency and indoor air quality? Yup, companies specialize in that. These jobs indirectly and directly qualify as “energy efficiency jobs.”
These are just some of the wide ranging jobs — white and blue collar — within the field of energy efficiency, each playing an important role in changing the landscape of how we think about and use energy.
This Thursday is National Energy Efficiency Day #EEDay2017, a great time to recognize and celebrate everyone working in the energy efficiency field — and all of the jobs we sustain here in Virginia and nationwide.