Total clean energy jobs across the country now outnumber coal and gas jobs by nearly 1.5 to 1, according to a report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The nonprofit found the U.S. employs over 4 million workers in the clean energy and sustainability economy. That figure includes those employed in energy efficiency, storage and policy as well as those involved in green energy production. The group counted 777,000 jobs in renewables such as solar, wind and hydro.
The report, In Demand: Clean Energy, Sustainability and the New American Workforce, found bioenergy to be the leading source of renewable energy employment, with 48 percent of green energy jobs. Data indicates that production of biodiesel in 2016 grew 23 percent from the previous year to employ 61,000 workers.
Wind and solar jobs now outnumber coal and gas industry jobs in 30 states. The solar industry grew 24.5 percent to employ 260,000 workers, adding jobs at nearly 17 times the rate of the overall economy in 2016. Wind employment exceeded 100,000 jobs in 2016, and grew 16 percent from the previous year.
EDF reported the fastest growing jobs in the solar and wind industries pay wages that meet or exceed national averages. The average wage for solar installation workers is $26 per hour, the average wage for solar sales and distribution workers is $45 per hour, and the median salary for a wind technician is $25 per hour.
Energy storage, which plays an important role in helping to create a reliable and flexible grid sourced by renewable energy, is becoming an increasingly important technology as more renewables are integrated into the grid. The important role of these technologies is translating into rapid market growth. Employment in energy storage increased 235 percent to reach 90,800 jobs. Battery storage accounted for over half of these jobs.
The report also reviewed labor in the advanced vehicles and transportation sector which includes jobs related to hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles. In 2016 this sector directly employed 174,000 Americans, including electrical and mechanical engineers, factory workers and assemblers. The industry is gaining momentum with manufacturers such as General Motors Corporation and Ford making commitments to produce advanced vehicles.
EDF predicts continued growth in clean energy employment, contributing the momentum to advancing technologies and global initiatives to reverse climate change.