- California has more than 540,000 advanced energy jobs, including 310,000 in energy efficiency, according to a new fact sheet from Advanced Energy Economy (AEE).
- Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data and the 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER), AEE determined that more people work in cutting-edge energy fields than in hospitals or groceries and supermarkets in California. Nationwide, 3.4 million people work in advanced energy jobs, making California a major source for the market.
- The numbers in job creation indicate the advanced energy sector is a major driver of economic growth, according to Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president of AEE's policy and government affairs.
As the advanced energy sector is developing more cost-competitive generation resources and energy conservation programs, the sector is being treated by legislators as a series of opportunities to bring economic growth to their districts. The conversation has changed to market competitiveness, economic impact and tax contributions, as opposed to being perceived "as asking for a handout," Woolf said.
Job creation and economic development are crucial to legislators from either political party when it comes to supporting advanced energy technologies, Mike O'Boyle, electricity policy manager for Energy Innovation, wrote in an email to Utility Dive.
"In fact, when we talk about conservative support for clean energy, we can have remarkable success building support by framing policies as tools for local economic development, rather than mandates to improve environmental outcomes," O'Boyle wrote.
Overall, employment in California's advanced energy sector declined 1% between 2016 and 2017, as employers cited difficulties to find qualified candidates. The AEE snapshot projects 10% job growth in 2018, as energy efficiency expands. Those estimates are based on the 2018 USEER analysis for the state, published by the National Association of State Energy Officials and Energy Futures Initiative.
Advanced energy includes energy efficiency, grid edge and energy manufacturing jobs, and is not restricted to renewable energy, as AEE considers combined-cycle gas turbine developers and advanced nuclear reactor work as part of the cutting-edge mix.
"There's been an evolution over the last decade. And as coal in particular has kind of lost out in the market, more and more jobs — in energy efficiency, and solar, and wind and battery technologies — they've been created," Woolf told Utility Dive.
Environmental policies in California, such as the state's cap-and-trade carbon market, renewable portfolio standard, storage mandate, building of efficiency codes and utility efficiency programs and its push for electrification, are addressing climate change concerns while also developing the economy. The state's large economy has become a huge market for renewable energy and advanced energy companies, as the state moves toward electrifying public transportation by 2040 and increasing distributed solar and storage projects.
"There's still a persistent narrative that a clean energy future is somehow less prosperous than one that relies on fossil fuels," O'Boyle said. "AEE is working to refute that narrative, and counting these employment numbers is an important part of that."