Green jobs have become a sort of mantra of late among the political left, with supporters looking to clean-energy sectors to produce companies hungry for new hires and help ease the pain of the economic downturn. Today research firm Clean Edge, known among other things for its annual Clean Energy Trends reports, weighed into the discussion with the release of its first report on employment titled “Clean-Tech Jobs Trends 2009.”
While some of the findings shouldn’t astonish — solar, smart grid and biofuels are three of the fastest expanding cleantech sectors — others like the 15 hottest U.S. metropolitan areas for clean-energy jobs and a listing of median salaries for a range of cleantech work provide interesting insight.
Given Clean Edge’s consistent bullishness on cleantech, it’s no surprise that the report is broadly optimistic about the sector’s capacity to create jobs in coming years. According to the authors, the current economic crisis could accelerate the transition to a clean-energy economy and major global trends — increasing action on carbon emissions reduction, lessening dependence on volatile fossil fuel prices and supplies, growing government leadership on clean energy — point to “huge potential growth” in cleantech employment. The number of jobs created could be in the “millions” in a wide range of cleantech sectors, but the report does not forecast more specific growth numbers or give a timescale for when those “millions” of jobs might be created. (The Clean Edge report does cite a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report that found cleantech jobs grew 9.1 percent from 1998 to 2007, compared with 3.7 percent growth for all U.S. jobs.)
The top five sectors for U.S. cleantech job activity — based on a combination of job placements, postings, and public and private investments — are solar; biofuels and biomaterials; conservation and efficiency; smart grid; and wind power, according to Clean Edge. But the report lists other key sectors, grouped under four categories, in which cleantech jobs are now emerging (see the chart below, courtesy Clean Edge).
Clean Edge worked with PayScale, a publisher of work-compensation data, to conduct a survey to determine median salary and wage compensation for a range of cleantech jobs. See the report (available for free as a PDF download), for a more comprehensive overview, but a sampling of salaries include: energy auditor for green buildings ($48,500 median pay); mechanical engineer for electric vehicles ($63,600); and solar energy systems designer ($42,600). Interestingly, the highest median salary listed was for project developers of renewable energy ($106,000) and the lowest was for insulation workers ($36,100).
Where are all these jobs being created? Clean Edge evaluated current and historical job postings, early stage and public market investment activity, cleantech job presence, and clean-energy patent activity to come up with the top 15 U.S. metropolitan areas for cleantech jobs (see list below). But the report notes that “the cleantech revolution is a highly dispersed phenomenon” and that no single place or region will control any one cleantech sector. Some “centers of expertise” not a part of the top 15 include Toledo, Ohio, for solar PV manufacturing and St. Louis, Mo., for green building design services.
The report’s authors see five major trends reshaping the cleantech jobs landscape. Those trends include energy efficiency (some related jobs: green building, architect and insulation installer); an aging work force, especially at electric utilities, with rising retirement rates (some related jobs: wind energy technician and solar thermal generation specialist); an increasing number of cleantech educational initiatives with opportunities for students and instructors; the movement of manufacturing jobs closer to end-use markets (some related jobs: solar fabrication technician and wind turbine generator builder); and the smart grid build-out (some related jobs: advanced metering engineer and grid application systems analyst).
The end of the report lists a number of resources, such as books, news sites, conferences, career fairs, job boards, training sites and networking organizations. The accumulation of all this information into one, freely accessible document should be welcome news for any cleantech job hunter.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons