Energy Efficiency Jobs Will Continue to Skyrocket, Here’s Why
They construct LEED-certified office buildings. They install water heaters and commercial ovens. They manufacture HVAC parts, sell skylights and recycle glass from old drafty windows. They’re energy efficiency workers – and they now total 2.25 million Americans.
For the second year in a row, energy efficiency is the fastest-growing job sector in the clean energy – and it shows no signs of slowing. Figures released in the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) reveal that job growth in this sector increased by 3.4 percent in 2018, adding more than 76,000 jobs. Throughout this year, that number is expected to more than double, with energy efficiency jobs skyrocketing 7.8 percent. That’s about 180,000 jobs – the highest projected growth rate across the energy economy.
How Does Energy Efficiency Create Jobs, Exactly?
There are two main ways in which energy efficiency spending creates jobs, reports the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy (ACEEE). The first is obvious: an upgrade investment such as an efficient heating system stimulates job growth. The second is when the money saved from lower energy bills is reinvested into the community.
Both of these behaviors produce three types of jobs:
- Direct: created as workers are deployed to develop and install energy-efficiency measures (i.e. HVAC installer)
- Indirect: created in the supply chain or other supporting industry such as lumber yards and manufacturers (i.e. HVAC parts supplier)
- Induced: created by the re-spending of income into the community in various service and retail industries (i.e. restaurant manager, clothing shop owner, bank teller, etc.)
Casey J. Bell, who authored the report, says induced jobs are actually “where a bulk of energy efficiency job creation resides.” This may seem odd at first, but think about a mid- or large-size company that’s saving tens, even hundreds of thousands on energy bills after investing in energy efficiency. Reinvesting those savings into the local economy – whether it’s in the school system, service industry or sports arena – can create a diversity of jobs.
What Factors are Driving Job Creation?
Now that we know how energy efficiency spending creates jobs, what are the factors driving job creation? The short answer: Consumer demand and advances in technology.
Americans are spending nearly $400 billion each year on electricity to power their offices, homes and commercial buildings. Therefore, it’s no secret that businesses and homeowners are continually looking for ways to cut spending and save money on water and electricity bills. One study by the ACEEE found that energy efficiency upgrades in new homes save homeowners an average of $4 to $32 each month.
In addition to lowering their bills, many Americans take pride in reducing their carbon impact and contributing to a healthier society. Energy use in buildings is responsible for more than 41 percent of our nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, by reducing energy-related air pollution, those who invest in energy-efficiency measures are helping cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the amount of particulate matter and irritant gases in the air – helping us all breathe easier.
Advances in technology mean energy-efficient systems are constantly improving. These advancements lead to more job opportunities, from research and development to replacing outdated models. Appliances are becoming more efficient, innovation is leading to smarter building materials, technology is improving for heating and cooling systems, and energy-efficient lighting is evolving by the day.
Research backed by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) continues to develop new building materials and find new ways to amplify improvements like windows and insulation. For example, innovative sprayable insulation and nanostructured smart window coatings are among thousands of R&D projects in the works.
The Future of Energy Efficiency Spending
As technology continues to evolve, so will energy efficiency spending. A new analysis from Navigant Research predicts spending in this sector will increase steadily over the next 10 years. Yes, homeowners will still buy EnergyStar appliances and green building will continue. But much of the predicted 4.6 percent annual growth in energy efficiency spending will be driven by a different force: distributed energy resources (DERs).
Smaller-scale than traditional energy generation, DERs are electricity-producing resources (think solar panels and small natural gas generators) and controllable loads (HVAC systems, electric water heaters) connected to a local distribution system. Navigant researchers believe the integration and optimization of these resources will be a large part of energy efficiency spending throughout the next decade.
While nobody can accurately predict the future, the outlook is bright for energy efficiency careers. Workers in this sector now outnumber elementary and middle school teachers and are almost double the number of Americans who work in law enforcement. As efficient technologies help facilitate our global energy transition, job opportunities in energy efficiency will continue to soar.