Green Jobs You Can Believe In

With the financial meltdown and great recession, there has been abundant hope expressed about the concept of “green jobs” — employment linked to fast growing businesses developing products and services that do not pollute and/or mitigate existing environmental problems.

Wind Turbines in Solano County's Montezuma Hills

Wind Turbines in Solano County’s Montezuma Hills, a green jobs hot spot in northern California.

A series of reports by organizations ranging from the Blue-Green Alliance, Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition and CEERT itself have examined the potential impact of green jobs. But some skeptics have questioned whether any of these jobs really been created.

The answer is yes, thoughout California and the rest of the country. But this is only the beginning.

According to a just released survey, California has 500,000 green jobs today, the highest percentage (3.8% of total employment) of any state analyzed. For comparison’s sake, the green job percentages of other sample states are 3.3% (Washington), and 3% for both Oregon and Michigan.

Other interesting findings from this survey include the following statistics:

  • The leading category of green jobs is in manufaturing with 93,143 jobs, followed by construction activities with 67,973 jobs.
  • The leading regional hub for green employment is in southern California — including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties — with 203,983 jobs. The San Francisco Bay Area comes in second with 131,134 green jobs.
  • Three-quarters of all current green sector workers were trained on the job.
  • Of the nearly 15,200 employers surveyed, 8.6% of respondents claimed employees worked on green products and services; roughly two-thirds of green workers spend more than half of the time on green aspects of their job.

Some of the most exciting developments are in inner cities, where former gang members and people of color are now working installing solar photovoltaic systems or upgrading neighborhoods with the latest energy efficiency upgrades. And according to Green-For-All, the key to developing the green economy employment is small businesses, which employ over half of all private sector employees and generated 64% of all new net jobs over the past 15 years.

The next most up-to-date review of green jobs created so far in California comes from the Bay Area’s Next 10, an organization looking out over the next decade to see how California can retool itself to continue to lead the way in developing opportunities in the green economy.

Here are some key indicators from The Green Innovation Index report, which is loaded with pie-charts, bar charts and case study sidebars:

  • California’s green jobs increased by 36% between 1995 and 2008, while total jobs only increased by 13%.
  • As the recession took hold in 2007-2008, total state employment fell 1%, but the green jobs sector grew by 5%.
  • The Bay Area leads in energy generation employment with 7,000 jobs.
  • The Southern California area leads in green jobs linked to the clean transportation sector, with Orange County boasting a 1,875% increase in employment involving alternative fuels and clean cars over the study period.
  • The statewide leader in green jobs is the Sacramento region, which posted an 87% growth rate over the time of the analysis, with jobs related directly to energy generation increasing by 141%.
  • Statewide, energy generation jobs are dominated by employment linked to solar energy devices, which accounts for 66% of California’s green power supply jobs.

This last statistic should come as no surprise given the California Solar Initiative is designed to add approximately 3,000 MW of solar PV over a ten-year period, while efforts to meet the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard are lagging due to permitting issues and lack of transmission capacity earmarked for renewable generation.

Hard evidence of green jobs being created by economic stimulus funding has been scarce. But it may just be too early to see the results yet. Experts have, nevertheless, been able to describe the types of jobs such government intervention will likely create. The Obama Administration itself has touted the number 150,000 total jobs were added to the nation’s payrolls since stimulus funds were disbursed.

In terms of the national green economy, the American Wind Energy Association recently released these statistics:

  • Today, 36 states have utility-scale wind power development, with 14 states joining the “Gigawatt Club” with more than 1,000 MW of installed capacity.
  • Approximately 85,000 people are employed by the U.S. wind industry today, with these jobs spreading across all 50 states.
  • During the past three years (2007-2009), over 100 new manufacturing facilities have been opened up, bringing the total number of supply chain wind turbine component providers now in current operation to over 200 factories.

  • Regulators released a 60-page executive summary of the DRECP at an event headlined by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Sen. Barbara Boxer. read here.



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