The Truth About Clean Energy Jobs: Efficiency Has Created 330,000 Jobs in Two Decades

Export dollars per job in the clean economy are almost double those in the broader economy.  Median wages are nearly 20% higher.

James Dixon, chairman of the National Association of Energy Service Companies, has a good op-ed in Politico on clean energy jobs.

Recent news reports might have you believe the rise of the clean energy economy is a myth. Not true. Just look at energy efficiency’s economic impact. Since 1990, the energy service industry has provided $50 billion in energy savings, $25 billion in public infrastructure improvements and created roughly 330,000 jobs.

Energy efficiency is an economic winner. This is not wishful thinking – it’s based on actual market experience.

I have seen how energy efficiency, a key component of our expanding clean and green economy, saves taxpayers billions of dollars, creates U.S. jobs and sparks the kind of energy innovations America needs.

Climate Progress has long argued that “Energy Efficiency Must Have a Starring Role in Putting America Back to Work.”  If we retrofitted just 40% of the nation’s residential and commercial building stock, we would mobilize a massive amount of domestic labor, more than half a million (625,000) sustained full-time jobs over a decade. This would generate as much as $64 billion per year in cost savings.

Dixon is a vice president for Con Edison Energy.  He is actually recommending a much more modest effort, one backed by  the Chamber of Commerce of all places:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week sent an open letter to the Obama administration and lawmakers, asking the president to issue an executive order requiring the Energy Department to make the federal Energy Savings Performance Contracts program a high priority.

We second the chamber’s request for fast implementation — since the program could create 35,000 jobs a year, save energy and reduce government utility and administration costs.

Under this program, energy service companies provide technical, engineering and managerial expertise, while private-sector financial institutions fund the retrofit projects — which make federal buildings significantly more energy efficient.

The costs of design and installation of new technologies as well as equipment upgrades are to be paid back out of the energy savings over the life of the contract— at no net cost to the government.

Every $1 million of ESPC project value is estimated to create about 10 direct jobs in engineering, construction and equipment manufacturing, professions hardest hit in this recession. The multiplier effect of the income created by these direct jobs provides another 10 to 12 indirect jobs per $1 million of project value.

What this all means is that adoption of strong energy efficiency policies, like the federal energy savings program and similar programs already in place across the nation, create incentives for business and institutions to find ways to save energy and dollars.

Note that clean economy jobs are skilled, high wage, high-export-value jobs, as documented in a recent Brookings report, the source of the figure above (see “Green Jobs Reach 2.7 Million“).  Dixon makes this point:

The skilled workforce required for these projects is currently suffering Great Depression levels of unemployment. Without any need for additional training, it is available today in communities across the country.

In addition, creating these jobs requires no new taxes— because the projects are financed by re-directing dollars today spent on wasted energy.

Some people say that our country should not continue to pursue a clean energy economy. They say it won’t translate into jobs.

From an industry point of view, clearer and more directed policy direction from the federal government gives businesses, investors and entrepreneurs the clear market signals they need to find ways to save energy, save dollars and put Americans to work.

Hear!  Hear!

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14 Responses to The Truth About Clean Energy Jobs: Efficiency Has Created 330,000 Jobs in Two Decades

  1. Last week when Colbert interviewed Al Gore, Colbert used the metaphor of a house in which the basement was flooding and the second floor was on fire. He implied that the fire (the economic crisis) needed to be put out first, and that the flood in the basement (climate change) could be addressed later.

    The stretch this idea even further, I would suggest that the water in the basement could be pumped to put out the fire. The pump for this is the Clean Economy. We desperately need jobs, and we desperately need action to mitigate climate. Clearly, this is the opportunity within these crises. That the Irrational Right would push back on this is testament to the mindlessness of ideology.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    All for this.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    While ‘job creation’ may be necessary in the short-term for political purposes, in the medium and long-term it is a concept that needs to be thoroughly examined. First, the mantra that ‘Any job is better than no job’, must go. The US is bedeviled by the phenomenon of ‘working poor’ people in the millions who toil hard and long yet are so lowly paid that they still live in poverty. That is wrong and immoral. Moreover, throughout the West, and the situation is worsening, jobs are becoming more precarious, more short-term and contracted, and wages and conditions are being driven down. This too is wrong, particularly when a tiny, global, parasitic elite live lives of luxury without ever lifting a finger and doing nothing more involved than choosing their parents well. In the USA people, on average, work hundreds of hours more per year than they do in Europe, yet their median wages have stagnated for over thirty years, and in Australia we are the world leaders in unpaid overtime.
    Everywhere the intensity and degree of labour exploitation is worsening, as the ‘race to the bottom’ against the low wage countries intensifies. The Right denied that this would happen, while not so secretly furthering the process at every opportunity. The future for Western workers is one of extended work-life, for meagre wages, mired deep in debt, followed by a brief retirement on poverty-inducing income. Karl Marx will not be laughing, as he cared deeply for the exploited and oppressed, but by God he foresaw the future accurately.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Stephen Mulkey, the situation is even worse. While the fire rages and the floods rise, there is a tornado bearing down called resource depletion. And, offshore, a titanic earthquake, or a collapsing volcanic island, has sent a mega-tsunami, that of geo-political chaos, heading straight for the land.

  5. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Workers are customers. Drive the middle class and working class into the ground and they will not be buying new houses, cars and cups of coffee.

    The Mega rich want more and more of a shrinking pie and in so doing ensure the pie shrinks even faster. Being a multi billionaire means nothing if the dollar is worth nothing.

    They abjectly fear the “stinking librul” idealogy of the doomsayer and yet drive the masses to the politics of Mulga Mumblebrain.

    If people have a stake in society they will work to defend it. Take that stake away and they will work to defeat it. I had thought the idea of revolution in the US as an utterly imposible proposition. Suddenly it does not seem so farfetched.

    “It is called the American Dream, because you would have to be asleep to believe it. “If the masses wake up then things could get nasty quite quickly.

  6. David B. Benson says:

    American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) prepared a report card on Ameica’s infrastructure. Quite a poor grade, all told. For example, D on dams.

  7. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Rabid, you are undoubtedly correct about people having to losing their stake before they rise to revolt. But whether or not you get a revolution in the short or long term is going to depend on their reaction to a dimension of work that Mulga didn’t mention.

    There is a third, human dimension to work, quite distinct from the external features that Mulga mentions. This third dimension consists of 6 factors including optimal autonomy to make decisions about your work, learning on the job, variety, adequate levels of mutual support and respect, meaningfulness and having a desirable future or career path. These factors are the intrinsic motivators and have powerful effects on behaviour.

    Throughout human history, people have shown they can cope with tough conditions as long as they are treated as human beings with dignity and respect. If you lose your intrinsic motivation, you lose your will to live. Having the 6 factors above conveys a purpose in life and a purpose in life is essential for people. When it is destroyed at work, often it is gone for good. Some people have nothing but their work.

    Increasingly, the human dimension has been removed from jobs in the USA as the screws have been applied. For many people, this simply drains the spirit out of them and they retreat to their private lives and their TVs. For some, it gradually gives rise to frsutration, anger and a fight reaction. Both have realized they have lost their stake.

    I will leave it to you to judge how the great mass of US workers will eventually react as general climatic and economic conditions worsen but if you think all this is some sort of ‘politics’, it isn’t. It is impeccable social science meticulously documented over 50 years now.

    And finally, Karl Marx was not some sort of ‘communistic’ rabble rouser – he was one of the most serious intellectuals of his age and his work and his conclusions have been vindicated time and time again, ME

  8. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I did not mean to disparage either communism or Mulga Mubblebrain. In fact Mulga Mumblebrain’s argument and observation are outstanding.

    However it would appear that his politics are to the left of mine, and mine are abhorrent to the rabid right.

    I have a strong libertarian streak, yet find libertarians far more interested in the freedom of the Koch’s money than my person.

  9. Barry says:

    “Throughout human history, people have shown they can cope with tough conditions as long as they are treated as human beings with dignity and respect. If you lose your intrinsic motivation, you lose your will to live. Having the 6 factors above conveys a purpose in life and a purpose in life is essential for people. When it is destroyed at work, often it is gone for good. Some people have nothing but their work.”

    Actually, people can survive even if they’re treated quite badly. The American/Western European/Japanese middle class is an aberration in the history of the world. The elites see it as a bad thing, and want to restore ‘normalcy’.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Merrelyn, I completely agree with your observations. Disempowerment is one of the most demoralising situations that can be imposed on people, and it is an increasing feature of Rightwing policy, in the West in general but, as ever, in the Anglosphere in particular. In Australia the Howard regime instituted radically reactionary labour laws which reduced workers to mere chattels at the mercy of their Masters, in a real throw-back to the 19th century. These laws were marginally ameliorated by ‘Labor’, but now the Right,led by Murdoch’s Evil Empire and the hugely overpaid Big Business Boss caste, are blaming all the country’s woes on the ‘labour market’. A new round of even more disempowering labour law, making workers more precarious, more dependent and work more contingent is certain when the Liberals return to power, if only because they are denying it.
    Another element that cannot be ignored in such hugely proscriptive and prescriptive laws, that target working people, who, after all, produce everything in society, is sadism. The ability to be able to push other people around, to shove a one-sided contract across a table while snarling ‘Take it or leave it’, really appeals to those on the Right. And the collapse of the global system will give them ample opportunity to blame all our problems on unions, followed by ‘agitators’, ‘water-melon’ Greens (the last refuge of the Left)and other ‘subversives’ and ‘economic terrorists’. If you imagine that too extreme, building workers in this country are already under the knout from a building industry Star Chamber, staffed with far Right ideologues, that treats building workers exactly like terrorist suspects, with the right to silence and other hoary ‘democratic practises’ abolished, for this one group alone. The thin end, in my opinion, of a very nasty wedge.

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Barry, yes people can survive when they are treated badly as we see in studies of POW camps for example. But the cultures that survived best were those with a high degree of solidarity, the mutal support and respect I mentioned originally.

    The vast majority of today’s workplaces individualize and force workmates to compete so that mutual support and respect cannot be relied on, not even from their peers. They strip away the minimal requirements for mental health. You may have heard of the increasing global epidemic of mental illness?

    Nothing to do with economics or the middle class, ME

  12. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Rabid, I don’t find it useful to always see the world through a political prism or fling around words like ‘libertarian’ that can mean 50 different things to 50 different people.

    I think we would all be a lot better off if we just stuck to a few facts such as those MM and I have contributed and then sat down calmly and worked out the best way to get ourselves out of this mess. Then we might stand a chance, ME

  13. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Spot on Mulga but you will be pleased to know that many of those who delight in pushing other people around are redeemable. The system created them and a radical change of system re-creates them. This involves shifting responsibility for control and coordination back to the level where the work is being performed rather than locating it at least one level above. We have found a few that were simply too badly damaged to change but most respond.

    On the political front, I have no doubt that should the Coalition be returned to power, Work Choices would return with it, but the Mad Monk is looking increasingly brittle and could shatter if the Fat Lady hit the appropriate frequency – stay tuned, ME

  14. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Good Post. Yes. Energy Efficiency is the simplest way to save energy and in this vast sector many jobs can be created. Each Kwh saved is each Kwh generated.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India