Virginia ranked 10th in the nation in overall clean energy hiring, according to a new Clean Energy Jobs report published by the Energy Entrepreneurs (E2). With 42% of all energy jobs and 24% of construction jobs in energy efficiency, Virginia is among the leading states that are creating more opportunities for energy efficiency nationwide. E2 hosted a webinar to review their job report in addition to the 2018 US Energy and Employment Report (USEER) that were both released earlier this year.
According to the reports, “EE jobs rose to 2.35 million in 2018. Of all 152,000 U.S. energy jobs added last year, 76,000 were in energy efficiency.” This means the sector has created 275,000 EE jobs over the past three years. And energy efficiency is projected to continue growing by 7.8% in 2019. Clean energy jobs have also outperformed the economy as a whole for the last four years, which is great news for our industry!
The only real limiting factor to energy efficiency job growth is the availability of workers. Phil Jordan, one of the participating webinar speakers from BW Research Partnership, said, “Young people lack interest in construction”, which is the largest segment of energy jobs. Pat Stanton, Director of Policy for E4TheFuture and speaker in the webinar, added that certifications for energy efficient installations can be another barrier to hiring. Here in Virginia, VAEEC Member Community Housing Partners (CHP) offers weatherization and certification training through their Research and Training Center in Christiansburg, which provides hands-on experience in energy efficiency strategies and technologies.
Stanton also said that, while retrofits can be daunting and time consuming, communities should not just look to new construction and technology for energy efficiency improvements “Existing housing stock is in pretty poor shape from an energy use standpoint, so we have to address that to really have a cleaner future.”
Jordan emphasized the effectiveness of apprenticeships to bridge the gap of understanding in the workforce, especially as training for many construction jobs can take two to five years. One out of every six construction jobs currently in the US are in energy efficiency, which underscores how important that sector is to all aspects of energy and life.
Dave Foster, the third speaker on the panel from Energy Futures Initiative, said that, in talking with people in the industry, “the President of United Steelworkers really captured the spirit of the 2019 USEER report. “We don’t have to choose between clean energy and jobs. We can and will have both.”