17,000 jobs lost since COVID-19, wiping out over 19% of industry’s workforce
Clean energy paid a $25.40 median hourly wage in 2019; 11% higher than WA median, 32% higher than U.S. median
Olympia, WA (November 24, 2020) – Led by strong growth in clean energy storage, clean fuels, and energy efficiency, Washington state’s clean energy economy employed over 85,000 workers for the first time after adding 1,300 jobs in 2019. This continued a years-long trend of steady growth for the state’s clean energy sector employment before the COVID-19 health and economic crises, according to a new report from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), CleanTech Alliance, Low Carbon Prosperity Institute, and Renewable Northwest.
85,035 Washingtonians worked in energy efficiency, solar, wind, clean energy storage, clean vehicles and other clean energy occupations at the end of 2019, according to the new report Clean Jobs Washington 2020. In 2019, Washington’s clean energy industries provided over 11 times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry and over 55% of employment across the energy sector. Nationwide, Washington state had the 13th most clean energy jobs in 2019, accounting for nearly five out of every 200 jobs in Washington and employing more Washingtonians than worked as software developers or architects and engineers.
Washington state’s clean energy economy also provides high-quality jobs, according to a separate recent report from E2, the American Council on Renewable Energy, and the Clean Energy Leadership Institute. The sector’s median wage in 2019 ($25.40) was nearly 11% higher than the statewide median wage and more than 32% higher than the nationwide median. Jobs in clean energy were also found to be more likely to include health care and retirement benefits. The sector’s 10.5% unionization rate was second only to New York state for clean energy workers, and well above the nation’s economywide average.
But this increasingly central pillar of Washington state’s economy has been temporarily upended due to the COVID-19-driven economic downturn. While some jobs have been recovered since May, Washington state’s clean energy industries remain down some 17,100 jobs since the pandemic began in March—more than five times the entire sector’s job growth since 2017. The losses represent over 19% of the sector’s total workforce.
Clean Jobs Washington 2020 comes at a critical juncture in the state’s efforts to recover from the COVID-19 health and economic crises. With the Washington state Legislature set to reconvene in January, policymakers will have the opportunity to leverage clean energy as an engine for broader economy recovery by enacting policies to get clean energy back on its growth trajectory. Policies such as a clean fuels program, clean truck standards, a state-wide limit on carbon pollution, and carbon pricing can drive investments in climate solutions and bring robust economic growth across the state.
Zach Amittay, Washington Advocate of E2, said:
“With the economic impacts from COVID-19 driving significant unemployment across Washington state, investments in the clean energy sector have proven potential to stimulate a recovery. With a focus on smart clean energy policy, lawmakers have the opportunity to generate thousands of new clean energy jobs and millions of dollars in investment to rebuild and strengthen our economy for the long haul.”
Mark Liffman, Founder & CEO of Seattle-based Omnidian Inc. and E2 Member, said:
“Omnidian is proud to be part of Washington’s growing clean energy economy. While these are challenging times for many in the sector, this report’s findings are still clear: our state’s present and future is increasingly being powered by clean energy, and that’s good news for our environment, our economy, and our workforce.”
Mel Clark, President & CEO of CleanTech Alliance, said:
“The CleanTech Alliance is a strong proponent of the great work E2 does, including compiling this report. The CleanTech industry has faced tremendous setbacks in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This snapshot of jobs in the sector will be an important planning tool for the year ahead. We now have the opportunity to prioritize a green economic recovery that will lead to a more diverse and equitable clean technology ecosystem, and I look forward to E2’s efforts to continue to inform that recovery.”
David Giuliani, Founder & Chief Engineer of Low Carbon Prosperity Institute, said:
“Clean energy will power Washington state past this pandemic caused pause. Replacing fossil fuel combustion with clean alternatives, notably electrification, will also reduce waste and save wasted money going up in tailpipe emissions. The money we then spend will primarily be in our home state, amplifying prosperity by the velocity of money. New industries and businesses will continue to burst forth as our storied northwest entrepreneurialism takes on these fascinating challenges. We can have both a clean and highly prosperous fairly-shared economy, and put an end to the false question – what are you for, a clean economy or a prosperous economy?”
Nicole Hughes, Executive Director of Renewable Northwest, said:
“Renewable NW is grateful for the in-depth analysis conducted by E2 on the impacts of Covid-19 on the clean energy industry. As the study shows, our membership has invested significantly in Washington’s workforce, and we are confident the benefits of clean energy jobs will continue to grow as the state decarbonizes its electricity sector.”
In addition to detailing sector-by-sector employment, Clean Jobs Washington 2020 also breaks down jobs at the city, county, legislative and congressional district levels. See more details here.
More details by sector:
- Energy efficiency is the biggest sector of the state’s clean energy economy, employing 64,900 workers at year-end 2019;
- Renewable energy employed nearly 11,200 workers, including more than 5,000 in solar energy;
- Jobs related to clean vehicles, including hybrid-electric and electric vehicles, employed over 3,300;
- Clean fuels companies employed over 1,900 and had the fastest growth rate of any clean energy occupation, growing 6.8% in 2019.
Other key findings:
- Small businesses are the backbone of Washington’s clean energy economy. More than two out of every three (69%) clean energy workers were employed at companies with fewer than 20 workers;
- 1 in 4 construction jobs in Washington are in clean energy occupations, from solar installers and site workers to electricians, HVAC technicians, lighting technicians, carpenters and others who work in energy efficiency;
- Washington ranked in the top 15 for jobs in 12 sectors and subsectors in 2019 – helping the state diversify jobs growth across the clean energy economy;
- Clean energy accounts for 55% of all energy sector jobs in Washington and made up 74% of the sector’s total job growth in 2019;
Clean Jobs Washington 2020 is the third iteration of the annual employment analysis. The report expands on data from the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) produced by the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), using data collected and analyzed by the BW Research Partnership. The report was released in March 2020 and is available at www.usenergyjobs.org. E2 and Clean Energy Trust are partners on the USEER, the fifth installment of the energy survey first released by the Department of Energy in 2016 and subsequently abandoned under the Trump administration.
Previous E2 Clean Jobs Washington Reports:
Previous E2 Clean Energy Unemployment Reports
- Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis | March 2020 Impact Analysis
- Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis | April 2020 Impact Analysis
- Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis | May 2020 Impact Analysis
- Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis | June 2020 Impact Analysis
- Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis | July 2020 Impact Analysis
- Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis | August 2020 Impact Analysis
- Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis | September 2020 Impact Analysis
- Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis | October 2020 Impact Analysis
E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital. For more information, see www.e2.org or follow us on Twitter at @e2org.
Low Carbon Prosperity Institute (LCPI) was established in 2014 as a project of the Washington Business Alliance’s PLAN Washington. Our goal is to guide Washington to a double win — achieve greenhouse gas reduction commitments and build a thriving shared economy. LCPI provides system design based on data and science working collaboratively with others and informing policies to make our goals come to life.
The CleanTech Alliance represents over 1,100 member organizations spanning ten U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. The Alliance facilitates the generation and growth of clean tech companies and jobs through a variety of educational programs, research, programs, and services. CleanTech Alliance members come from all facets of the clean technology industry sector. A diverse membership allows the CleanTech Alliance to drive impact for our members and create business connections that make a difference.
Renewable Northwest is a nonprofit advocacy organization that promotes the rapid decarbonization of the electric grid in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Our work is deeply informed by our members, a unique combination of environmental nonprofits, renewable energy companies, and consumer advocates. It is our collective goal to speed the region’s efforts to decarbonize our electric grid while maintaining system reliability and affordable rates for customers.