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Clean-Energy Investments Create Jobs

Hundreds of thousands of hard working Americans are already employed in clean energy jobs. Learn about these jobs and how they can help put millions of Americans back to work.

Electricians work on wiring a "green building" under construction in Las Vegas. (AP/Jae C. Hong)
Electricians work on wiring a "green building" under construction in Las Vegas. (AP/Jae C. Hong)

Clean-energy investments in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the American Clean Energy and Security Act recently passed by the House will generate millions of new jobs in a variety of industries across all 50 states. These new clean-energy jobs can help jumpstart our struggling economy and expand and strengthen America’s shrinking middle class. The need has never been greater for a new economic growth strategy powered by clean and efficient energy.

Clean-energy jobs are here

The clean-energy economy is already producing jobs in a variety of industries and occupations across the country.

  • More than 750,000 jobs at more than 70,000 individual firms already exist in industries related to expanding clean-energy production, increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating waste and pollution, and conserving water and other natural resources.
  • These jobs require a wide diversity of education and skills—about 490,000 (65 percent) are in engineering, legal, research, consulting, or government administration sectors; about 197,000 (26 percent) are in renewable power generation, construction, systems installation, and manufacturing sectors.
  • Clean-energy industries have produced these 750,000 jobs without sustained policy attention or investment. In contrast, the well-established traditional energy sector employs only 1.27 million workers, even after decades of government subsidies.

Clean-energy industries are seeing high growth rates

Green jobs consistently post incredible growth rates and are poised to expand on a massive scale.

  • A June 2009 report from Pew Charitable Trusts shows that clean-energy jobs grew by 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007, while total jobs grew by only 3.7 percent.
  • Another report shows that the renewable energy industry grew more than twice as fast as the overall U.S. economy.
  • And according to the 2009 Green Collar Jobs report from the American Solar Energy Society, renewable energy and energy efficiency industries can create 37 million jobs by 2030 as long as policymakers support their development.

Investing in clean energy creates new high-quality, local jobs

Investing in clean-energy jobs produces exceptional returns in terms of employment possibilities.

  • A 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in partnership with the Center for American Progress found that investing $150 billion in clean energy produces a net gain of 1.7 million new jobs and reduces the unemployment rate by one full percentage point, from the current 9.4 percent down to 8.4 percent. It also creates pathways out of poverty by expanding job opportunities to low-income working Americans, with roughly 870,000 out of the projected 1.7 million clean-energy jobs accessible to workers with high school degrees or less.
  • A 2004 study done by the nonpartisan Perryman Group in Waco, Texas in conjunction with the Apollo Alliance found that a $300 billion investment in a clean-energy future would create over 3.3 million new jobs, spread across every state in the country.

Clean energy is more labor intensive than fossil fuels

Wind and solar photovoltaic industries offer at least 40 percent more jobs per dollar than coal, while optimized clean-energy investments among a number of industries would create over three times as many jobs as investing in carbon-based energy industries.

  • The clean-energy sector produces more jobs per dollar than the fossil fuels industry because a larger share of clean-energy expenditures go to manufacturing, installation, and maintenance—far more labor intensive than the extraction and transportation sectors that comprise most fossil fuel jobs.

Clean energy’s potential is still untapped

We have barely tapped the country’s potential for new energy production, even with all the gains the United States has made in transitioning to a cleaner energy economy.

  • The wind energy industry has tapped less than one-half of one percent of wind’s potential generation in the United States.
  • The four states with the highest potential wind power generation capacity—North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, and South Dakota—are estimated to have a total potential of 4,500 billion kWh, which is enough to power the entire country.
  • The United States Department of Energy estimates that if 5 percent of the nation’s energy comes from wind power by 2020, rural America could see $60 billion in capital investment. Farmers and rural landowners would derive $1.2 billion in new income, and see 80,000 new jobs created over the next two decades.

Clean-energy jobs can help rebuild the middle class

Clean-energy jobs provide employment in numerous sectors throughout the economy and for people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets, but many exist in the manufacturing and construction sectors—traditionally "middle-skill" sectors offering entry into the middle class for workers without four-year college degrees.

  • From 2007 to 2008, new construction of residential buildings was down a staggering 39 percent and commercial building construction was down 17 percent.
  • Roughly 30 percent of jobs generated by clean-energy investments will be in the construction industry. The Renewable Energy Policy Project concludes that a national renewable electricity standard of 25 percent by 2025 could produce over 850,000 new manufacturing jobs at existing manufacturing firms across the country.
  • These jobs are evenly distributed across the country.
  • Clean-energy investments generate jobs that cannot be outsourced throughout multiple sectors such as construction, installation, and transportation.

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