U.S. Clean Economy Employs 2.7M


"Study finds U.S. renewable energy companies employ 2.7 million people."

Dow Jones, Cassandra Sweet

U.S. companies that make renewable energy and conservation-related goods and services, or that serve such industries, employ 2.7 million workers and offer more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle-skilled workers compared to the broader economy, a new study has found.

The study, by researchers at the Brookings Institution and Battelle, concluded that the U.S. clean economy employs more workers than the fossil-fuel and bioscience industries, but less than the information-technology sector.

The South has the largest number of clean-economy jobs, although the West has the largest share relative to its population, according to the study.

The study also found that while the clean economy grew more slowly than the national economy did from 2003 to 2010, the clean economy outperformed the nation during the recession, owing to "explosive" job gains in newer clean-tech segments such as wind and solar energy, and smart grid.

Many companies have benefited from stimulus funding approved by Congress in 2009 in the form of grants, tax credits and loan guarantees.

Median wages for clean-economy workers are about 13% higher than median U.S. wages, while many of those jobs are staffed by workers with relatively little formal education, the study found.

The study warned that while the U.S. clean economy has been growing moderately on its own, the U.S. could miss out on growing global demand for low-carbon and environmental products and services as rival industries in other countries aim to supply the same goods and services.

Federal and state governments can support clean-tech industries and the jobs they create by buying more green products and services and by putting a price on carbon-dioxide emissions, passing a national clean-energy standard and ensuring that developers of high-voltage transmission lines needed to ship renewable energy to the market can recover their costs, the study suggests.

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