80,000 clean energy jobs created in 2013, study estimates

Source: Joshua Learn, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014

About 80,000 clean energy and transportation jobs were created in 2013, according to a study put out this week by an environmental nonprofit group.
Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says the bulk of these were in the solar power sector, which announced more than 21,000 new jobs. But building efficiency and public transportation also had strong showings.The top states were California with more than 15,000 new clean energy jobs announced, followed by Texas, with more than 6,000. Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts were close behind.”Our report makes it clear. When we invest in clean energy and clean transportation, we put people to work in every corner of the country,” said E2 Executive Director Judith Albert in a statement. “Whether it’s a new wind farm in Iowa, an energy efficiency retrofit in Massachusetts, or a utility-scale solar array in Nevada, these projects require American ingenuity and labor. The sector is helping stimulate our economy.”

But new clean energy and transportation jobs are down 30 percent from 2012, the first year E2 tracked growth in the industry. While E2 says this is partly due to changing methodology in the company’s research, the low cost of natural gas and moves by renewable energy opponents were also responsible.

Bob Keefe, the company’s communications director, also pointed to the expiration of the production tax credit for the U.S. wind industry at the end of 2013 as well as uncertainty with several other energy efficiency policies as contributing to the downturn. Although Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is championing the renewal of these tax breaks, many congressional Republicans would prefer to tackle a broader tax overhaul — though that is unlikely to come until next year at the earliest.

“Ongoing regulatory uncertainty takes a serious toll. Elected officials shouldn’t be holding back economic growth — they should be encouraging it,” said Geoff Chapin, CEO of Next Step Living, a Boston-based energy efficiency company that expects to add 100 jobs by the second quarter of 2014 to keep up with rapid business growth. “As a business owner, I see a strong need for long-term policies that can stimulate private investment in clean energy and energy efficiency. Businesses in this sector create jobs, save consumers money and help our environment.”

Keefe said that despite the decrease compared to a year ago, the clean energy sector as a whole is still growing.

E2 tracked 260 projects to compile the employment figures. These include a Texas-based company called Nest Labs that created an energy-saving thermostat and announced 140 new technical support and customer service jobs. The construction in California of a biofuels refinery by the California Ethanol and Power Project that will create 800 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs near San Diego was also named in the report.

Although E2 doesn’t track the number of announced jobs that actually come to fruition, Keefe said there are also job announcements the company misses. The numbers come from announcements made by public officials and company executives, and those that are reported on in media outlets.