Clean Energy Jobs Take Off

The Pew Charitable Trusts have released a study of clean energy jobs, the first hard count of that market. The Pew study shows that job sector grew by 9.1% between 1998 and 2007 compared to overall job growth of 3.7% during the same period.

The high growth rate is partly the result of the small number phenomenon. Pew researchers counted 68,200 businesses and 770,000 jobs across the U.S. tied to clean energy as of 2007–a mere 0.5% of the national total. But the Pew report predicts “explosive growth” in the clean tech sector over the next several years, due to a surge in private investment and the huge amount of money the federal government plans to plow into ‘clean energy’.

The Pew report defines the “clean energy economy” as:

  • Clean energy development and production (wind power, solar, biomass, tidal, et al)
  • Energy efficiency
  • Environmental improvements in products and and manufacturing processes
  • Conservation and pollution mitigation, including recycling
  • Training and support

Not surprisingly, California came in #1 in terms of venture capital investment in green jobs (Table 1).

The number of clean tech job didn’t entirely follow the money, but they did grow fastest in California and Texas, both of which heavily promote the sector (Table 2).

Don’t Mess With Texas

According to Kil Huh, who led the Pew Study, “Texas is the sixth-largest producer of wind energy in the world. The state’s clean-energy economy is poised for incredible growth.” The state also ranked third in clean-energy venture investments and fourth in clean-energy patents. The Pew study attributed much of this growth to the state’s policies on fostering renewable energy enterprises. But there’s another side to that story, too.

In 2007 Texas had 40,167 jobs tied to conservation and pollution mitigation, accounting for over 70% of the jobs in the clean energy sector. Texas has always been a leading energy producer, and the state government is determined to be a leader in new energy sources, at which the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and Austin Ventures are throwing a lot of money. But if Texas were a nation, it would be the seventh largest producer of greenhouse gases, thanks largely to its fondness for coal-fired power plants and big pickup trucks. So it’s only fitting that as ‘green/clean tech’ catches on, Texas is profiting from cleaning up its act.

California–with its plentiful supply of hydroelectric power–may get snooty about this, but let’s give credit where credit is due. “Doing well by doing good,” etc.

[Full disclosure: I’m a Bay Area native happy to be living in a state that includes Austin, Luckenbach and great BBQ.]

About John Donovan

Writer, editor, Dad
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