People 2 People January 29, 2018

Clean energy jobs on the rise in Georgia, a new Energy report says

Clean energy jobs in Georgia are on the rise, surviving a slight drawback experienced in the solar industry last year following the imposition of tariffs on solar imports.

An analysis of a newly published U.S. Energy and Employment report shows that Georgia had 76,533 clean energy jobs in 2017, representing a 2.21% increase compared to 2016.

Nationally, 3.2 million people were employed in clean energy jobs like solar, wind, clean vehicle manufacturing and energy efficiency.

Energy Efficiency employment, produced the highest source of jobs in the clean energy sector in the state. Energy Efficiency is a component of clean energy that entails the production and manufacture of appliances and products that reduce energy consumption. The sub sector grew to 59,065 jobs in Georgia last year, which was an addition of 2,000 jobs from the year before.

The growth in the sector could in part be attributed to the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy, said Bob Keefe,the Executive Director at E2, a non-partisan business group that advocates for clean energy policy .

“What the numbers show is that clean jobs count in America,” said Keefe.

The top clean energy states were California, Texas and Florida.

The biggest portion of energy efficient jobs in Georgia were in the construction industry, according to the report.

Most of the construction jobs, said Keefe, were in the installation of energy efficient products in “homes and offices, the HVAC people and the software people managing lighting and heating and air conditioning to make buildings more energy efficient.”

A 2017 analysis by the International Energy Agency(IEA), an autonomous organization that works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its member countries, showed that the shift towards efficiency improvements since 2000, had resulted in 12% less energy consumption globally in 2017 compared to 2016.

Despite growing employment numbers in the clean energy sector, gains were not made in the solar and clean vehicle industries.

Nationwide, solar jobs fell by 24,000 despite a steady growth experienced since 2010.

Hundreds of acres of solar farms are under construction across Georgia, as the state embraces the renewable energy revolution that promises to protect the climate. But while these efforts help reduce dependence on foreign-sourced oil and gas, create jobs and save money, they come with consequences, too. For example, solar panels keep the sun and rain from hitting the ground and growing food for the gopher tortoise, Georgia’s state reptile and a potentially endangered species. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres

Two thirds of the job losses nationally were in California and Massachusetts, the nation’s top solar states. The decline was in part attributed to newly imposed tariffs on imported solar panels late last year.

Some 29 states, including Georgia, did not experience a decline in solar jobs. In fact, according to the Solar Foundation Georgia added 500 jobs. Latest numbers show the state employs 5,185 people in solar, most of them in installation.

According to Keefe policies matter. That point was was reflected in the nationwide decline in solar numbers in 2017. Keefe said the tariffs introduced by the Trump administration last year affected the solar industry which the Bureau of Labor Statistics identified as one of the fastest growing job sectors in the country.

The tariff’s which were aimed at protecting local solar panel manufacturers from cheap imported products followed a trade case launched by Georgia manufacturer, Suniva.

“There are a lot of factors that matter when it comes to growing a clean energy economy in our country and the jobs that come with it, but policy is a big one,” added Keefe.

He said the contraction of the solar industry last year could have influenced hiring trends across the board.

“Businesses set their hiring and employment plans not after policies happen…if there are things on the horizon that they know about, they do it before not after,” he added.

Despite the loss of about 14,000 solar jobs, California still leads the list in clean energy jobs, employing 514,822 people.

The state recently passed a new building standard requiring all its new housing to be fitted with solar panels, a measure which could spur further growth in clean energy jobs in the state.

Despite the job losses in the solar industry last year and policies that affected growth in solar jobs, experts predict a 5 percent growth in employment this year as major corporations place the demand for clean energy, which is considered to be cheaper and cleaner. Recently Google partnered with Georgia Power to light its data center in Douglas County with solar power. Last month Amazon announced the installation of rooftop solar on one of its fulfillment centers in Las Vegas, as part of its global goals to install 50 rooftop solar systems by 2020. Earlier in the year, IPhone maker Apple announced that 100 percent of its global facilities were powered by clean energy.

For Keefe and others in the clean energy sector, that is good news.

“The good thing we are seeing is that clean energy jobs are still growing in the right direction across the country,” said Keefe.

BY THE NUMBERS: CLEAN ENERGY JOBS

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X