Help Wanted: Energy Efficiency Is Creating Domestic Jobs

by Casey J. Bell

The impact of investments in energy efficiency extends well beyond reducing energy costs or addressing the environmental impacts of energy extraction and use. These investments provide jobs for American workers and help them to support their families and communities.

ACEEE has just released a series of six profiles of real world experiences in energy efficiency job creation. These profiles describe programs, policies, investments, partnerships, and business models that have catalyzed regional increases in employment. While previous ACEEE work has provided an analytic framework for how jobs are created through efficiency, this paper focuses on the jobs themselves.

Energy efficiency catalyzes employment opportunities that draw upon the broad range of Americans’ skills. Moreover, as companies’ investments in energy efficiency improve their bottom lines, they experience increased competitiveness, which is a potential contributing factor in bringing jobs back to American soil. Each profile serves as an independent portrait of the various driving forces behind energy efficiency job creation, illustrates the diversity of energy efficiency jobs, and demonstrates the extent to which they draw upon Americans’ existing skills and competencies.

Highlights in the paper distilled from conversations with program representatives and literature review include:

  • OPower:  Opower is a privately held software company that partners with utilities to develop feedback reports on home energy performance. Since the launch of the company, OPower has grown to employ more than 240 software engineers, programmers, and sales and marketing experts.
  • New York City Greener, Greater Buildings Plan: In 2009, The New York City Greener, Greater Buildings Plan was enacted.  Four local laws require, among other actions, annual benchmarking of building energy performance and retro-commissioning. A number of firms have employed energy analysts to meet the need for assistance with compliance, and the subsequent demand for assistance in interpreting benchmarking metrics and applying the information to investment decisions. The city estimates that the laws will generate $700 million in savings and create roughly 17,800 construction jobs over 10 years.
  • Nissan North America: In 2006, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and amidst rising natural gas prices, Nissan made the decision to prioritize investments in energy efficiency and establish a rigorous energy-management program to control manufacturing costs and become more competitive. By improving the cost-effectiveness of the production process, Nissan is now more competitive, creating and retaining jobs on U.S. soil.
  • Ohio Low-Income Weatherization: During the ARRA period, the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD) weatherized 9,000 homes and expanded its workforce by 400 people and catalyzed a total of 188 indirect and induced jobs in Ohio.  They are now working on approaches to sustain program funding without ARRA funding.   COAD estimates that at full funding, given current demand, the program could support approximately 1,600 jobs over the next 20 years.
  • Johnson Controls, Wisconsin Energy Initiative: In 1992, Johnson Controls worked with the State of Wisconsin to implement energy conservation lighting projects, and expanded their efforts in 1998 to include additional efficiency measures. The total effort created 1,500 annual jobs for more than 50 private-sector companies employing architects, engineers, electricians, and maintenance workers.
  • General Electric, Appliance Park: Appliance Park in Louisville, Kentucky is the headquarters for General Electric Appliances, which manufactures over 750 ENERGY STAR-qualified lighting and appliance products. A 2010 Tripp Umbach study commissioned by GE shows that the Appliance Park directly and indirectly generates $1.6 billion in the state from local purchasing and other mechanisms, and supports over 12,000 jobs in the state. For every job at Appliance Park, which employs more than 5,000 full-time employees, an additional 1.5 jobs are indirectly supported through vendor purchases or are induced through the re-spending of a GE employee’s wages.

These profiles primarily illustrate jobs arising from the implementation of efficiency measures, from the supply chain supporting this direct implementation, and from additional dollars circulating in the broader economy that are spent by workers in these categories. What we have not emphasized here are the multitude of jobs that are supported when individuals and businesses redirect the money they save by paying lower utility bills. In other words, energy efficiency does more than drive job creation through installation and investment. The subsequent cost savings from energy efficiency can also be used, in part, to support fuller levels of employment in the broader economy.

As demonstrated through our profiles, jobs supported by energy efficiency are diverse and require a variety of skill sets, many of which are abundant in the American workforce today. In sum, energy efficiency should be viewed as a powerful strategy for sustaining enduring employment that utilizes a huge range of Americans’ skills and expertise.

Casey J. Bell is a Senior Economic Analyst at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

4 Responses to Help Wanted: Energy Efficiency Is Creating Domestic Jobs

  1. GoingGreen says:

    Green efficiency is is a great way to address environmental impacts. Capitalizing on the green economy helps create employment for many and curbs the unemployment rate. While the job profiles outlined above aim to provide jobs to those with a specific skill set, it mentions nothing about an attempt to improve the knowledge of workers and possibly train and educate those who require it. If the implementation of green efficiency can result in the such a mass increase in the employment, surely there is scope for greater investment in green technology production in order to boost employment. this way would not provide employment but valuable skills too as well as further develop the green technology.

  2. NJP1 says:

    250 years ago, when the industrial revolution kicked off, we began to create our industrial economy through the simple expedient of digging coal, then oil and gas out of the ground, burning it in machines, which produced ‘stuff’, cars, planes, guns—you name it. it was a one way, endless ticket to wealth and prosperity. the faster we burned fuel, the more stuff we made, and the more debt we could create on the promise of still more stuff being made next week, next month, next year.
    there was always the promise of more—and still more, into some kind of cornucopian infinity.all that industrial activity was our economy, and in it was the forward economic drive that gave everybody jobs.
    those jobs were fuel-burning.
    while insulating houses and so on, might be described as a job, it is not a fuelburning job, it is a fuel saving job, and is thus finite. We cannot sustain an industrial economy by jobs that exist just to save energy, no matter how essential that is in the short term

  3. Mark E says:

    For insulation to be worthwhile and not create different headaches, ya gotta pay to have it installed right. Anybody can slap it around, but doing a good job is another story.

  4. This presents some of the important reasons for the strong administration policy push in this area – energy efficiency – that President Obama made such an emphatic point of in the presidential debate last night.

    Multiple dimensions of positive feedback from appropriate, aggressive investments in energy efficiency!