Democratic News

May 16 2018

NEW: Report Shows Dramatic Growth In Energy Efficiency Jobs, With Washington State Leading The Charge

Cantwell, Moniz Unveil 2018 Energy Workforce Report at Capitol Hill Event

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) joined former Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz, David Terry, Executive Director of National Association of State Energy Office, and David Foster, Distinguished Associate with Energy Futures Initiative, to discuss the 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER).

This is the third installment of the USEER which was first released in 2016 in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy. The report found that the energy sector employed 6.5 million Americans in 2017, up 133,000 jobs from the prior year.

“We know that the energy sector, the third largest [industry] in the U.S., is continuing to grow. We know that there are ever increasing technologies that are related to renewables and energy efficiency that make our cars, our homes, our buildings and even us smarter, and help drive down costs for consumers and businesses,” said Senator Cantwell during the event. “Our nation is embarking on one of the greatest economic opportunities, and that is a clean, efficient, energy economy.”

“Trained workers are a critical part of making all these solutions scalable, and the energy industry is facing a shortage,”
said Senator Cantwell. “We want to continue ensuring the U.S. is a leader in developing these [energy] technologies and in training...a workforce that will help us deliver.”

According to the new report, Washington State has 150,000 energy jobs, over a third of which are energy efficiency jobs.  In addition, 2.8 percent of all U.S. energy efficiency jobs are in Washington making the state a national leader. Nationwide employment in this sector is expected to continue to increase, with energy efficiency employment projected to grow another 9% in 2018, and energy efficiency construction jobs projected to grow by 11%. However, 74.6% of energy efficiency employers in Washington State reported difficulty hiring workers for open positions.

The takeaways from the report include:

  • Energy Efficiency employers created the most new jobs of the four sectors, adding a net 67,000 new jobs nationally.

  • 70% of all surveyed employers reported difficulty hiring qualified workers over the last 12 months; 26% noted it was very difficult.

  • Natural gas electric generation jobs continued to grow, adding over 19,000 new jobs, as natural gas continued its climb as the number one fuel for electricity generation in the U.S.

  • Solar energy firms employed, in whole or in part, 350,000 individuals in 2017. That represents a reduction of 24,000 jobs in solar in 2017 -- the first net job loss since solar jobs were first collated in 2010.

  • Of the 7.1 million construction jobs in the U.S., over 2 million, or about 29%, are directly supported by traditional energy or energy efficiency firms.

Senator Cantwell, a longtime supporter of creating clean energy jobs, recently introduced S.2449 - 21st Century Energy Workforce Act of 2018, which would establish a 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board to develop a strategy for the support and development of a skilled energy workforce.

In 2016, Senator Cantwell hosted a roundtable at Pacific Northwest National Lab in Richland, Washington, with then Energy Secretary Moniz. The event marked the release of a study by Senator Cantwell that included information on the role that Centralia College’s Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy has played in developing an energy workforce throughout the state.

“The Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy has served the region for the past 12 years representing the needs and interests of the energy industry and labor partners. We are charged with narrowing the gap between employers’ demands for a highly skilled workforce and the colleges’ ability to supply work-ready graduates,” said Barbara Hins-Turner, Executive Director of the Center of Excellence for Clean Energy.  “Retirements are happening now and are projected to increase posing serious replacement and knowledge-transfer challenges; energy is a knowledge-intensive industry. Ongoing labor and skills shortages will not improve unless we step up efforts to attract, prepare and support the energy workforce of the future. We believe this is the collaborative solution to solving the energy industry workforce shortage for our region and our national as a whole.”

The 2016 report also documented the challenges Washington state faces in preparing its workforce for tomorrow’s energy industry.  The report highlighted the need for increased public and private investment in workforce training and apprenticeship programs. 

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