In its second annual look at the state of clean-tech jobs in the U.S. and globally, Clean Edge Inc., the world’s first research and advisory firm devoted to the clean-tech sector, released its Clean Tech Job Trends 2010 today. The report provides key insights and analysis of the most important clean-tech employment trends.
The Clean Tech Job Trends 2010 offers a comprehensive summary of clean-tech job activity including a survey of compensation levels, market size, competition, leaders, and manufacturing issues. The report also makes recommendations for the US including the application of feed in tariffs, increased exploitation of energy efficiency opportunities, and government policy.
Clean Tech Providing Well Paying Jobs
Globally, the report indicates that despite the recent recession and high unemployment, clean energy continues to fuel innovation and growth while delivering economic opportunities and well paying new jobs. The report indicates the following median incomes:
- Entry-level insulation worker $33,600
- Solar-energy systems installer $37,700
- Smart-grid embedded systems engineers $76,500
- Senior mechanical engineer for electric vehicles $91,500
The data confirms that clean-tech occupations deliver reasonable wages for new workers in the field, (many of which do not even require college degrees) while also offering financially rewarding opportunities for senior-level operatives.
Clean Tech Job Market
Investments in clean tech offer extraordinary returns. The report cites a 2008 study titled Green Recovery that estimated that $100 billion spent on clean energy over a 10-year period could create two million new jobs, compared to just 500,000 jobs if the money were invested in oil and gas-related industries. The Center for American Progress states that “renewable energy and efficiency improvements create twice as many jobs per unit of energy and per dollar invested than traditional fossil fuel-based generating technologies.”
The offshore wind industry is expecting 2010 to be a record-breaking year adding to last year’s 72% growth of annual installed capacity, or more than 2 GW cumulative global capacity. A 2010 Scottish Renewables report estimated that offshore wind could create 28,000 jobs by 2020 in Scotland alone. According to Clean Edge research, the solar PV industry now represents approximately 300,000 direct and indirect jobs globally, while the wind-power sector includes more than 500,000 direct and indirect jobs worldwide.
The Renewables 2010 Global Status Report (2010 GSR), the highly-regarded annual publication from global research group REN21, shows that total jobs in renewable energy industries exceeded three million globally in 2009.
Global Clean Tech Competition
Industrial leaders in the US, China, South Korea, Germany, Japan, and other nations are vying for clean-tech leadership and the jobs that come with it. According to the Renewables 2010 GSR, Brazil and China account for the largest share of renewables employment globally, representing more than 700,000 and 250,000 respectively in the bioethanol and solar hot water industries alone.
Brazil and China are not the only countries investing in clean-tech. Some of the countries hit hardest by the recession see clean-tech as a way to a more prosperous economy. Portugal is on track to get 45 percent of its grid electricity from renewables this year. Clean-energy research firm IHS Emerging Energy Research projects that other countries including Ireland, Denmark, and Britain are on pace to get 40 percent or more of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. In installed wind power, Europe is the clear leader, it installed 333 MW through the first half of 2010 alone.
From the UK to Denmark, China to New Jersey, regions are positioning themselves to benefit from the continued expansion of offshore wind installations and increased turbine manufacturing demand. The US is also vying for a slice of this Europe-dominated sector. The US Cape Wind installation off the coast of Massachusetts will be the country’s first large scale wind installation project. New Jersey recently passed the kind of legislation that could help it to take the lead in US offshore wind energy.
China is Undisputed World Leader in Clean-Tech
With China based companies poised to dominate as clean-tech employers both domestically and abroad, China is the world’s undisputed leader of clean-tech initiatives. China, which passed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy, now outspends both the US and Europe on clean energy. Clean-energy investments in China reached $34.6 billion last year, more than any other country and almost double the US investment of $18.6 billion, according to a Pew Environment Group report, Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race.
“China has risen from clean-energy neophyte to global clean-energy powerhouse over the past five years,” says Ron Pernick, cofounder and managing director of Clean Edge. “China is now home to six of the top 10 global clean-tech pure-play employers, up from just three a year earlier. China has become the country to watch, analyze, and, at times, emulate. Ignoring China’s clean-tech ambitions and activities puts one’s own clean-tech initiatives at great peril.”
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET