Green Jobs Just Keep Growing

2022 has been a defining year for the climate tech industry, with the Inflation Reduction Act marking the single largest investment in climate and energy policy in the United States’ history, with automakers simultaneously investing billions across the board to bring better fossil fuel alternative offerings to market. Bolstered by 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the climate tech and energy sectors are experiencing massive job growth, outpacing other sectors as industries continue to rebound from 2020 COVID-19 related job losses. With such strong interest in the climate tech industry growing this year, we here at Zero Impact Solutions have gathered all relevant data, predictions, and news in order to provide a comprehensive view for our readers.

Let’s start with what a ‘green job’ is: in 2013 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defined green jobs as either being “A. Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, [or] B. Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.” While this definition still remains mostly true, most of the job growth we’re going to be discussing today has to do with the first category, as those support positions make up the vast majority of green jobs.

A recent report showed that, with a median salary of $76,530/year, green jobs on average make “31% more than the national median salary for the U.S. workforce at $58,260/year,” with “eight out of 10 top-paying jobs offer[ing] salaries of 100K or more per year”. With such a large pay discrepancy, it’s also worth noting that this higher pay doesn’t come at the cost of volume. In fact, an estimated 875,000 Americans work in green jobs, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a growth rate of 9.6% over the next decade, totaling 114,300 total added jobs. This is just one―albeit very encouraging― growth projection. When we look at net-zero emissions aligned jobs specifically, growth expectations are soaring.

In analyzing 2021 trends, the Department of Energy estimated that net-zero emissions aligned jobs “made up approximately 40% of total energy jobs,”― for a total of 3,086,467 jobs in net-zero emissions-aligned areas.  The Energy Efficiency sector saw an increase of 57,741 jobs (+2.7% from 2020 to 2021), and the Motor Vehicles and Components sector saw an increase of 228,082 jobs (+9.8% from 2020 to 2021). With an overall trend of energy jobs decreasing from 2020 to 2021, the Motor Vehicles and Component Parts Technologies sector grew a collective 25% in 2021, and were “among the only subcategories of any type of energy jobs that did not decrease in 2020.” Indeed, 2021 saw the overall energy sector growing at a 4% rate compared to 2020, which outpaced overall U.S. employment growth, which only increased 2.8% in the same period across all sectors. With the energy sector being one of the most heavily impacted by COVID-19 related job loss, this quick rebounding is highly encouraging, and offers proof as to the effect of recent climate legislation in concert with consumer pushes.

This dual-ended approach is most obvious when we look at automakers: “jobs in electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and hybrid vehicles were among the only subcategories of any type of energy jobs that rose in numbers from 2019 to 2021 and that did not decrease from 2019 to 2020”. When we consider the lack of job loss from 2019 to 2020, it’s clear that despite minimal policy effort at the time, consumers were voting for fossil fuel alternatives with the wallets more than ever. Substantial growth from 2020 to 2021, and now from 2021 to 2022, supports the claim that both major policy pushes, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act are rounding-out the sector’s growing market share.

Several recent analyses further this claim: the BlueGreen Alliance recently commissioned a comprehensive study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which found that the Inflation Reduction Act “will create more than 9 million jobs over the next decade, an average of nearly 1 million jobs each year.” Digging further into the data, job creation estimates are broken down by sector:

Total Job Creation Estimates

  • Electricity Programs: 573,177 jobs annually; 5,731,771 jobs over ten years
  • Transportation Programs: 65,821 jobs annually; 658,212 jobs over ten years
  • Building Programs: 91,082 jobs annually; 910,819 jobs over ten years
  • Manufacturing Programs: 106,032 jobs annually; 1,060,320 jobs over ten years
  • Environmental Justice and Community Resilience Programs: 14,892 jobs annually; 148,892 jobs over ten years
  • Lands Programs: 22,582 jobs annually; 225,817 jobs over ten years
  • Agriculture Programs: 38,573 jobs annually; 385,732 jobs over ten years
  • Total: 912,159 jobs annually or 9,121,587 jobs over ten years

While these growth figures are compelling evidence of federal legislation nation-wide, we can also look to the state level for recent policy change in the green jobs sector. New York state recently announced a $9 million “competitive opportunity through the State’s Offshore Wind Training Institute, led by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in collaboration with the State University of New York Farmingdale State College and Stony Brook University” which seeks to “[expand] offshore wind workforce development and training initiatives to address workforce gaps  and prepare New Yorkers for high-growth jobs.” When we look at off-shore wind job sector growth on a national level, New York is on pace to take advantage of a growing industry: wind turbine service technicians are expected to see 68% increase from 2020 to 2030, a trend that will be continuing substantial growth from 2021, with wind energy jobs (both offshore and land-based) having added 3,347 jobs in 2021 for a total growth of 2.9%. Michigan is likewise investing in the green jobs sector, instead favoring auto manufacturing. The U.S. Energy and Employment Jobs Report “ranked Michigan No. 1 in the nation for energy-sector job growth from 2020-2021… with “clean energy rebound[ing] faster than the state’s overall economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”