Here’s something you don’t hear people complain about much these days: worker shortages. That is, unless you’re in energy efficiency, an industry that is booming as others are busting.
Sixty percent of those responding to a recent survey by the Association of Energy Services Professionals cited a lack of talented workers in energy efficiency.
“Energy efficiency is a rapidly growing segment of the overall energy industry and we believe there is a clear lack of talent that is necessary to fill the positions that are open,” said Meg Matt, the AESP president and CEO.
So where do you find these jobs?
Another recent report, this one by the Brookings Institution and Battelle’s Technology Partnership, sheds some light. Look to major metropolitan areas and young businesses for jobs not only in energy efficiency, but also in other segments of the clean economy, according to Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.
In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the clean economy expanded by 8.3 percent, says the report. Efficiency, renewable energy, biofuels and other clean industries accounted for 2.7 million US jobs in 2010. To put that number in perspective, that’s more jobs than you’ll find in fossil fuels or biosciences, but still less than information technology.
Green jobs in general, and green construction in particular, were clustered in 100 large metropolitan areas. About 73 percent of the nation’s LEED certified green buildings are in these cities. Raleigh and Seattle have strong green architecture and building sectors. The energy saving/ building materials industry is thriving in Houston and Minneapolis. Boston excels in HVAC and building control systems, according to the Brookings/Battelle report.
The findings are in keeping with U.S. economic geography. The 100 largest metropolitan areas “are the nation’s innovation engines,” responsible for 78 percent of the US’ green patents. Further, most of the “highest-impact” U.S. cleantech firms called out in the 2010 Global Cleantech 100 list are based in these cities, particularly Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles, said the report. In all, the100 biggest cities created three-quarters of the clean economy jobs from 2003 to 2010.
“In short, metropolitan areas, large and small, are now and will increasingly be the nation’s critical centers of clean economy talent, innovation, and finance and so its top hubs of commercialization, deployment, and trade,” the report said. “Regions and metropolitan areas, in short, are not a part of the national clean economy; they are that economy.”
Looking at broader regions, it’s not surprising to find California and the West responsible for the most clean economy jobs, when measured as a percentage of total employment. About 2.2 percent of the jobs in the West are related to the clean economy. The Northeast comes in second at 2.1 percent, followed by the Midwest’s 2 percent and the South’s 1.8 percent.
What kinds of businesses produce clean economy jobs? The young upstarts – or at least they’re responsible for the recent mercurial job growth.
Here’s how Brooking/Battelle explained this phenomenon. “Old establishments in the clean economy (those born before 2003) created an average of just three jobs for every one establishment from 2003 to 2010 while new establishments created 37 jobs. This compares favorably to new establishments nationally which created just 10 jobs per establishment over the same period.”
How much do these jobs pay? Quite a bit.
Brooking/Battelle found that clean economy jobs pay about 13 percent more than typical US jobs, and have a median wage of $44,000. AESP said 80 percent of those who responded to its survey cited vacant jobs in energy efficiency with salaries of $50,000 to $100,000 and 28 percent said jobs were untaken at salaries of $100,000 to $150,000.
So spread the word. Not all the economic news is gloom and doom. Energy efficiency and the clean economy are hiring.
Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer whose work appears in many of the industry’s top magazines and newsletters. She is publisher of the Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.