Illinois residents with clean energy jobs

 

The Midwest is a leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy, a subject covered in last year’s Energy Foundation annual report.

A new report called Clean Jobs Illinois—which presents findings of the first comprehensive survey of Illinois’ clean energy industry—shines a light on the industry’s job-creation benefits.

The survey found that 96,875 people currently work in the clean energy sector of Illinois’ economy and the numbers are projected to grow by 9 percent in 2014. Clean energy jobs are defined as those pertaining to energy efficiency, renewable energy, electric or hybrid vehicles, and greenhouse gas management. The report includes stories about Illinois professionals working in areas including building efficiency, advanced battery manufacturing, wind energy, smart grid meters and biofuels.

BW Research Partnership, a national leader in workforce and economic development research, conducted the Clean Jobs Illinois survey. More findings:

  • Energy Efficiency is the primary focus of 62 percent of Illinois clean energy businesses. Other sectors include renewable energy (28 percent), alternative transportation (6 percent), greenhouse gas management (1 percent) and “other” (12 percent).
  • Firms working on hybrid and electric vehicles are the fastest growing sector of Illinois’ clean energy economy. While these businesses currently make up only 6 percent of Illinois clean energy companies, the sub-sector expects to grow by 10.5 percent in 2014.
  • Illinois’ clean energy sector offers opportunity for qualified workers. The top job categories of clean energy jobs are engineering and research (21 percent), installation and maintenance (30 percent) and professional services (21 percent). Companies reported that they have difficulty hiring qualified engineers (software and mechanical), welders and installers.
  • Businesses reported that Illinois’ public policies affect their ability to grow. Maintaining a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard was a top concern for Illinois clean energy firms.

A new interactive website showcases the survey results and will serve as an educational resource about clean energy jobs in Illinois: www.CleanJobsIllinois.com.

The survey was commissioned and developed by Clean Energy Trust in partnership with Environmental Entrepreneurs, The Environmental Law & Policy Center and The Natural Resources Defense Council. Advanced Energy Economy, the Joyce Foundation, and the Energy Foundation provided funding.

We are pleased to announce that Stephen Harper, Global Director of Environment and Energy Policy at Intel Corporation, has joined the Energy Foundation’s board of directors.

Stephen’s experience in shaping environmental, energy, and sustainability strategies for companies and government agencies will be valuable to inform Energy Foundation strategies.

“Our education and analysis work to build big markets for clean energy technology requires leadership in both the public and private sectors,” said Eric Heitz, Energy Foundation CEO and Co-founder. “Stephen’s experience and guidance on all of these fronts will help us achieve our mission to promote reliable and affordable renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

In the U.S., Stephen recently led Intel’s release of its updated climate policy statement, which included an endorsement of controlling carbon emissions from existing power plants. In China, he’s been exploring ways to green supply chains, alongside other leading companies like Apple and Walmart.

Outside Intel, Stephen serves on the board of both the Center for Environmental Policy at American University and the Chesapeake Conservancy. Prior to joining Intel he served in senior positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ICF Consulting, and the California State Coastal Conservancy.

Learn about other Energy Foundation board members here.

The Energy Foundation is taking applications for three positions:

Program Director, Power Sector

We seek an expert to lead grantmaking on our utility-scale renewable energy and distributed-energy resources initiatives to fill our Program Director, Power Sector position. We also seek expertise on areas such as new regulatory and utility business models and innovative approaches to finance of renewables projects. Read more and download a PDF of the job description here.

Communications Director

The Communications Director will design and lead communications strategies that amplify these facts in ways that promote energy and climate action in the U.S. Strategies will be developed through collaboration with top experts, grantees, funding partners and foundation staff. Strategies will be executed through a combination of organizational grants, consultant contracts, and collaboration with funding partners and others aligned with the communications strategy. The director is an integral part of the Energy Foundation leadership team. Read more and download a PDF of the job description here.

California Program Director

The Energy Foundation seeks a California Program Director to manage its clean energy and climate campaign investments in the state. Candidates will have deep issue campaign experience in California, familiarity with state policy and politics, and demonstrated skill working with diverse stakeholders outside the environmental community. Read more and download a PDF of the job description here.

The last two positions are part of our Public Engagement Program team.

APP logo thumb

Game‐changing new technologies; consumer demand for cleaner, more efficient energy; an aging and increasingly obsolete grid; dramatic reduction in the cost of renewable sources of energy: These are among the many forces radically reshaping America’s electricity sector. A new era is dawning, and analysts agree we are at a pivotal moment in America’s energy history. Decisions and investments made in the next decade will shape the course of the power industry, the economy and public health for decades to come.

Will legal economic and regulatory structures designed for the last century continue to thwart innovation and constrain consumer demand? Will $100 billion per year in needed infrastructure investments lock in business as usual, or foster innovation?

America’s Power Plan (APP)—a toolkit for state and local decision-makers developed by over 150 of the nation’s top energy experts—is the first national effort to take a comprehensive look at the challenges faced by the electric power system and outline potential policy and market design solutions.

Launched in late 2013, APP and its expert advisers offer innovative recommendations on utility business models, finance, distributed generation, distributed energy sources, market design, transmission, and siting. Their ideas have sparked discussions among state, county, and municipal decision makers—those who know best how to tailor the recommendations for local realities.

Andy Karsner, CEO of Manifest Energy and former Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under President George W. Bush, says APP “started an important and timely discussion, mapping a path forward that should be considered by every serious utility executive and PUC commissioner across the country.”

The project was inspired by a number of studies that show a high-renewable future is technically feasible, and by real-world experience in parts of the world that are already seeing high levels of wind and solar.

To learn more about APP, visit the website, follow the APP blog or tweets, ask the experts questions, or sign up for the newsletter.

Man installing solar panels

The U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013, according to The Solar Foundation’s four annual National Jobs Solar Census. The figure includes 23,683 more jobs than the previous year, or a 19.9 percent growth in employment. That means solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment rate of 1.9 percent in the same period.

The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar research and education organization. The full report is available at here. In February, TCF will release state-by-state jobs numbers, including a more detailed analysis of the California, Arizona, and Minnesota solar markets.

According to TSF, solar companies report that cost savings are driving their clients’ decision making, as 51.4 percent of customers report going solar to save money, and another 22.9 percent because costs are now competitive with utility rates.

“Tens of thousands of new living-wage jobs have been created over the past year thanks to plunging solar technology costs, increasing consumer demand, and supportive government policies,” said Amit Ronen, director of The George Washington University Solar Institute. “As the nation’s fastest growing energy source, we expect the solar industry will continue to generate robust job growth for at least the next decade.”

TSF points to the following notable findings from the report:

  • Seventy-seven percent of the nearly 24,000 new solar workers since September 2012 are new jobs, rather than existing positions that have added solar responsibilities, representing 18,211 new jobs created.
  • This comparison indicates that since data were collected for Census 2012, one in every 142 new jobs in the U.S. was created by the solar industry, and many more were saved by creating additional work opportunities for existing employees.
  • Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, growing by 22 percent, an increase of 12,500 workers.
  • Solar employment is expected to grow by 15.6 percent over the next 12 months, representing the addition of approximately 22,240 new solar workers. Forty-five percent of all solar establishments expect to add solar employees during this period.
  • Employers from each of the solar industry sectors examined in this study expect significant employment growth over the next 12 months, with nearly all of them projecting percentage job growth in the double-digits.
  • Approximately 91 percent of those who meet our definition of a “solar worker” (those workers who spend at least 50 percent of their time supporting solar-related activities) spent 100 percent of their time working on solar.
  • Wages paid by solar firms are competitive, with the average solar installer earning between $20 (median) and $23.63 (mean) per hour, which is comparable to wages paid to skilled electricians and plumbers and higher than average rates for roofers and construction workers. Production and assembly workers earn slightly less, averaging $15 (median) to $18.23 (mean) per hour, slightly more than the national average for electronic equipment assemblers.
  • The solar industry is a strong employer of veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, who constitute 9.24 percent of all solar workers—compared with 7.57 percent in the national economy. Solar employs a slightly larger proportion of Latino/Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander workers than the overall economy.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 was conducted by TSF and BW Research Partnership with support from the GW Solar Institute. The report, derived from data collected from more than 2,081 solar firms, measured employment growth in the solar industry between September 2012 and November 2013. The margin of error of this data set is +/-1.3 percent, significantly lower than any similar national industry study.

The Energy Foundation would like to correct the record concerning its funding of a small number of not-for-profit organizations in Alabama that are working to advance competitive markets and build a strong economy based on clean, affordable, and secure sources of energy.

Information disseminated by the Alabama Coal Association and, more recently, postcards mailed by the Free Market Alliance, imply that, with help from President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, we have “transferred” $2.7 million to four organizations in Alabama.

In fact, we are nonpartisan and pragmatic. And the transfers are grants, which we invite everyone to view in our grants database or in our annual Form 990s. We also invite you to learn more about our history and our programs, and to read the stories about some of our grantees—business leaders, veterans, and energy efficiency advocates.

The grants they mention were made over a three-year period and went to groups around the Southeast (not just Alabama), and funded a wide range of clean-energy work.

For those who are learning about us for the first time, you should know that since 1991 we’ve been working to build big markets for new energy technology—not just wind turbines and solar panels, but cars that go farther on a gallon of gas with less pollution, efficient refrigerators that save consumers money, and buildings that lower heating and cooling bills.

Our vision is for a healthy future powered by clean, affordable, and reliable sources of energy. We know that a vibrant, clean energy economy will strengthen our national security and offer American workers good jobs in thriving industries. This vision will help avert climate change and, most importantly, it will keep our air and water clean for today’s children—and future generations.

To achieve this mission, we fund diverse organizations all around the country—military, faith, labor, health, environmental groups and others. They include nonprofit organizations in Alabama and throughout the Southeast who, like us, want competitive markets, technology innovation, and a prosperous and healthy clean-energy future for their children and grandchildren.

Worker with solar panels

A recent solar industry report found a record level—4.2 gigawatts—of photovoltaic (PV) installations in the U.S. in 2013, making the U.S. the number two solar market behind China.  The U.S. market has grown 15 percent since 2012.

The report, by NPD Solarbuzz, also shows that North Carolina rose into the number two spot nationally (behind California) in 2013, up three spots from 2012. According to an article in the Duke University Chronicle, Larry Shirley, the director of operations and planning at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, “attributes North Carolina’s ascension to solar-friendly policies.

“That seemed to ignite solar within the state,” the Chronicle quotes Shirley as saying. He also said the 35 percent state solar tax credit is “a juicy business incentive.”

Other states in the top 10 are Arizona, New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, and New York.

Energy Foundation CEO and Co-founder Eric Heitz issued the following statement in response to a letter Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama sent to the Department of Energy (DOE) on December 13, requesting that the agency determine if certain organizations that receive financial support from the foundation also received funding from DOE.  The senator said his request was based on allegations that the organizations may have accepted federal grants that were used to wage a “stealth War on Coal” in Alabama.

“We are proud to support groups working to build a stronger, more resilient economy based on clean, affordable, and secure energy—not only in Alabama but across the United States. Transitioning to a new energy economy represents the best of America’s tradition of embracing new technology and ideas to continually renew our economy and create new jobs. Turning our backs on energy innovation and market competition would not only violate that tradition but undermine our nation’s vitality.

“The Energy Foundation has never received federal funding, and there is no ‘stealth war on coal,’ as the Alabama Coal Association has claimed.  This is an open public dialog about how markets, competition, and innovation—deeply valued and trusted American traditions—can bring affordable, clean power to Alabama. Transitioning from coal to clean energy will create jobs and spur economic development as businesses hire more local residents and pump more money into local economies, including those in Alabama.

“According to a study titled Energy Efficiency in the South conducted by Duke University and Georgia Tech*, ‘increased investments in cost-effective energy efficiency would generate jobs and cut utility bills.’  These investments would reduce energy bills in the South by $41 billion, create 380,000 new jobs, and grow the region’s economy by $1.23 billion. The Energy Foundation takes pride in advancing these and other economic benefits for the South—and the entire country. It is also well documented that transitioning to cleaner forms of energy protects the health of our children today and generations to come from the proven health risks of coal-fired power plants.

“The shift to more affordable and cleaner sources of energy no doubt threatens Alabama’s coal power suppliers who benefit financially from the status quo. We are especially sensitive to the importance of retraining the hard-working men and women in this declining industry and have advocated for policies to ease the transition. But it would be counter to competitive market principles and to our national economic interest to protect and preserve outmoded technologies that are being eclipsed by cheaper, cleaner, more innovative approaches.”

 
*The Energy Foundation was one of several foundations that provided financial support for the study.

Iowa Farmer Tim Hemphill

A long-term commitment to energy policy in the Midwest is transforming the region’s energy system, economy, and environment. By tapping into its enormous renewable energy potential and manufacturing know-how, the Midwest is poised to become a world leader in renewable energy.

The Energy Foundation and its partners are proud to have supported clean energy in the region for more than 20 years. In 1993, the foundation funded Powering the Midwest, a Union of Concerned Scientists study that laid out a vision for significant growth in wind, biomass, and distributed electricity generation. At the time, three-quarters of global wind capacity was in California, with most of the rest in Denmark—and none in the Midwest.

Our 2012 annual report essay explores progress and leadership in a region where life-long corn and hog farmers are earning extra income by leasing land for wind farms, and urban residents are charging electric vehicles with rooftop solar panels.

Click here to download a PDF of the 2012 annual report.

 

[Photo courtesy American Wind Energy Association]
EV charging

Eight governors whose states collectively represent nearly a quarter of the U.S. car market announced last week that they’re taking steps to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the roads in their collective states by 2025. The governors hail from California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The eight participating governors signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging to reduce barriers to electric vehicle adoption through incentives and support for refueling infrastructure. Such measures will provide more choices for consumers, help lower zero-emission vehicle costs through economies of scale, lower fuel costs, and reduce pollution.

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), U.S. electric car sales in 2012 more than tripled to about 52,000 from 17,000 in 2011. Motorists bought more than 40,000 plug-in cars in the first and second quarters of 2013.

There are currently 16 zero-emission vehicle models available from eight automotive manufacturers; nine run completely on batteries, two on hydrogen fuel cells, and five are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that can run on gasoline as well as battery power.

According to CARB, this multi-state effort is intended to expand consumer awareness and demand for zero-emission vehicles. In this agreement, the governors identify specific actions they will promote within their states and joint cooperative actions these states will undertake to help build a robust national market for electric and hydrogen-powered cars.
For example, the governors agreed to pursue the following efforts:

  • Harmonize building codes to make it easier to construct new electric car charging stations
  • Lead by example by including zero emission vehicles in their public fleets
  • Evaluate and establish, where appropriate, financial and other incentives to promote zero emission vehicles
  • Consider establishing favorable electricity rates for home charging
  • Develop common standards for roadway signs and charging networks

The eight states will develop an action plan over the next six months that will include many of these strategies and others.