California, North Carolina and Florida led the United States in green job creation last year, according to a report just released by Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Engineers (E2).
Companies and communities across the country announced more than 300 clean energy and clean transportation projects during 2012 that are expected to create 110,000 jobs, the organization states in its “2012 Clean Energy (News - Alert) Jobs Year-in-Review and Fourth Quarter Report.” Illinois, Connecticut, Arizona, New York, Michigan, Texas and Oregon rounded out the top 10.
"It's now crystal-clear that clean energy and clean transportation are helping our economy recover," said Judith Albert, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a nationwide network of business leaders who advocate for policies that benefit both the economy and the environment. "The [type and quantity] of projects and job announcements [that] we saw in 2012 can continue— as long as we don't let smart energy policies get hijacked by special interests."
The E2 report comes just weeks after President Obama announced goals to double our renewable energy and our energy efficiency— steps that will help our environment as well as our economy. E2 points out that it also comes as lobbyists backed by the fossil fuel industry are trying to derail clean energy policies, including state Renewable Portfolio Standards, across the country.
"State policies have done a lot to drive growth in the clean energy industry," Albert said. "If lawmakers care about creating good, clean energy jobs in their neighborhoods, they should continue supporting those policies. If not, they can sit back and watch these good-paying jobs go elsewhere."
Three Major Trends
E2 identified three major trends—two of them positive; one, negative— in the clean energy economy during 2012.
First, North Carolina announced more than 7,600 jobs in the fourth quarter, alone, thanks to a major light rail project—more by far than any other state. While the West Coast remains a top region for clean energy job generation, growth in two transportation industries—electric vehicle manufacturing and light rail—has vaulted North Carolina into a top-tier state for clean energy employment, lifting the entire Southeast along with it.
"There is a lot of interest in North Carolina right now for clean energy," said E2 member John Robbins, president of Greathorn Development Corporation in Concord, North Carolina., which is working with a municipal airport in the state and other airports elsewhere to reduce energy costs by adding solar power. "For all the right reasons, clean energy is growing in North Carolina— and it's creating jobs and boosting our economy along the way."
Second, solar energy was a consistent job creator throughout the year, with 19,100 jobs announced in power generation and manufacturing nationwide. Other clean energy industries experienced steady numbers throughout the year as well—including wind power generation, energy efficiency, advanced vehicle manufacturing, and public transportation. But solar energy’s job announcement gains were noteworthy for their relatively high and steady numbers in every quarter.
In the fourth quarter, solar led the way with a combined 15 announced projects in power generation and manufacturing. This is more than all the other technologies (wind, biomass, biogas, geothermal) E2tracked in the power generation and manufacturing categories combined. These solar projects could add up to more than 3,300 jobs, the majority coming from power generation.
Third, the clean energy economy hit a speed bump in the wind energy manufacturing industry. Because Congress was slow to act on an extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), wind energy developers delayed or canceled projects. With a slowdown in orders, wind energy manufacturing companies experienced a corresponding decline in job announcements during the second half of the year.
Early indications from 2013 show that thanks to the PTC’s extension—which was part of the last-minute “fiscal cliff” deal—the wind manufacturing industry has regained some of its footing. For example, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, headquartered in Aarhus, Denmark, announced it will hire at least 100 workers at its Pueblo, Colorado, wind turbine manufacturing plant—a move that the company attributed directly to the PTC’s extension. However, layoffs announced in late February elsewhere in the company are a reminder of the lingering effects of delayed action on the PTC.
"Smart policies and regulatory certainty—at both the federal and state levels— drive economic growth," Judith Albert said. "If 2012 taught us anything, it's that, if America wants to keep creating good, clean energy jobs, we need good, clean energy policies."
Edited by Rachel Ramsey