Western states are seeing some of the fastest growth in clean energy jobs, in most cases outperforming job growth in other sectors, according to a study released Wednesday by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Leading the region is Colorado, with a large and fast-growing pool of clean energy jobs. Idaho had a small number of jobs in the sector, but it had the highest growth rate in the country. Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Montana also had small but growing clean energy sectors. Utah was alone in the region in losing clean energy jobs.
“The clean energy economy is poised for explosive growth,” said Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew Center on the States. “These jobs are driving economic growth and environmental sustainability at a time when America needs both.”
The study, a hand count of actual jobs in each state and the District of Columbia, found the number of jobs in America’s clean energy economy grew almost 2 ½ times faster than overall jobs between 1998 and 2007.
Pew found that jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a national rate of 9.1 percent while traditional jobs grew by 3.7 percent. Job growth in the clean energy economy outperformed overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
Clean energy jobs – jobs in clean energy, energy efficiency, environmentally-friendly production, conservation and pollution mitigation and training and support – grew despite a lack of sustained government support in the past decade, Pew found. By 2007, more than 68,200 businesses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia provided about 770,000 clean energy jobs.
Fossil fuels—including utilities, coal mining and oil and gas extraction—comprised about 1.27 million workers in 2007.
Some of the fastest growth was in the West.
Colorado was one of three top-performing states, alongside Oregon and Tennessee. With 17,008 jobs at 1,778 businesses in 2007, Colorado’s clean energy sector grew 50 percent since 1998, more than twice as fast as overall jobs.
“Colorado has a large share of America’s clean energy economy – and it is growing fast,” said Niki Hawthorne, Colorado representative for the Pew Environment Group.
It attracted more than $620 million in venture capital in the past three years – the fifth largest amount in the nation – three quarters of which was invested in clean energy generation.
Gov. Bill Ritter said the report affirmed the state’s effort to transform itself “into a national and international leader on new energy.”
“Colorado’s work to build on its strengths and develop this sector of the economy has paid dividends,” said Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo. “We are now a national leader in clean energy production.”
Idaho’s small but booming clean energy economy was the fastest-growing in the nation. Clean energy jobs there more than doubled, growing much faster than total jobs. With more wind power potential than Oregon and Washington combined, according to the Department of Energy, Idaho had 4,517 clean energy jobs – about as many employees as Boise State University – and an average annual growth rate of over 10 percent.
Other Western states had small but growing clean energy sectors. Wyoming’s clean energy jobs grew four times faster than total jobs. Job growth in New Mexico’s clean energy economy was 25 times greater than for total jobs. Gov. Bill Richardson called the sector “a strong and important part of New Mexico’s and America’s economy.”
Arizona ranked ninth in the country in clean energy jobs, with 11,500. Clean energy jobs grew in Nevada, too.
Montana is one of just a few states where total job growth outpaced job growth in the clean energy economy. But the state has attracted an increasing number of jobs in the clean energy economy, Pew found, despite a lack of venture capital investments and little research activity. In 2007, there were more than 2,150 jobs in Montana’s clean energy economy.
“So far, Montana has missed out on the explosive job growth and venture capital investment in the clean energy economy happening across the country,” said Elizabeth Andrews, Montana representative for the Pew Environment Group. “The good news is that Montana’s clean energy sector is poised for growth. The state has renewable energy standards in place to help create market demand for clean energy generation. And it has introduced a property tax exemption for buildings that use renewable energy.”
Utah was among eight states to lose clean energy jobs, with an average annual drop of more than 1 percent.
The report found the emerging clean energy economy creating well-paying as diverse as engineers, plumbers, marketing consultants and teachers, with incomes ranging from $21,000 to $111,000.
Venture capital investment in clean technology has been growing, Pew found. In 2008 alone, investors directed $5.9 billion into the clean energy economy, a 48 percent increase over 2007.