December 11, 2018

Vt. is leading the nation in clean energy jobs

A national report distinguished the state of Vermont as having the highest number of clean energy related occupations, Gov. Peter Shumlin said last week.

One in 17 workers, or about six percent of the overall workforce, now works in the renewable energy sector, according to the Department of Public Service, which announced the report’s findings May 18.

In the past year, the state saw an increase in 1,400 clean energy jobs, bringing the total of Vermonters employed in the clean energy industry to 17,175, the office said in a press release.

Vermont has the highest number of jobs per capita of any state in the U.S., according to the release. The report, called the 2016 Clean Energy Industry Report, is generated by the state of Vermont, hence largely looks at the details of the state’s own economy. A search for federal clean-energy industry reports resulted in reports on surveys of the growth in energy careers across the nation, without differentiating by state and growth in solar industry jobs, again without differentiation by state.

“Clean energy jobs are a growing and significant part of Vermont’s economy,” the release said. Noting that jobs have grown in recent years, with 17,000 new jobs added since January 2011, the release said the new energy job creation is growing even faster, by nearly 20 percent since 2013.

In the two years since it was measured last, the percent of Vermonters working in the sector jumped from 4.3 percent in 2014 to 6 percent in 2016.

According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions last year were 12 percent below their 2005 levels, however energy demand continues to grow globally.

In the release, Shumlin said he’d made growing jobs and championing a cleaner energy future for the state a priority of his.

As such, when the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan was released last October, it affirmed, to the surprise of some in the state, Vermont’s ambitious goal of meeting 90 percent of the state’s energy needs through renewable sources by 2050 and provided details on how to get there.

Shumlin credited the growth of clean-energy jobs to the state’s investment in renewable energy, expansion of Vermont’s net metering program, having a future energy creation goal and enacting a law that encourages utilities, like Green Mountain Power, to transform into energy efficiency companies, as well.

Vermont now has the second lowest electric rates in the region, the release said.

“This report clearly shows that our clean energy jobs strategy is working,” Shumlin said.

Public Service Department Commissioner Christopher Recchia added, “I’m pleased to see the clean energy industry is thriving with many businesses employing so many Vermonters.”

OTHER NOTABLES

Other key findings of the 2016 Clean Energy Industry Report include:

The wood energy industry —including forestry, logging and processing firms, as well as distributors of chips pellets and firewood — is a critical component of the state’s clean economy.

Manufacturers and installers of wood stoves, boilers and furnaces are also part of the wood energy industry picture, altogether responsible for employing 1,542 full-time-equivalent workers across Vermont.

Energy efficiency is the largest segment of the sector, employing nearly half of the new workforce.

The number of renewable energy workers expanded the most, growing by more than a third since the 2015 industry report (36 percent), or, adding about 1,800 new workers to their payrolls in the past year, bringing the 2016 total employed in renewable energy jobs to 6,965.

—Jess Wisloski, Observer staff

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