• PA was home to 11th most clean energy jobs before COVID-19

  • Jobs in renewables grew 11.8% from 2017-2019 as natural gas employment dropped 10%

  • 18,000 jobs lost since COVID-19, wiping out 19% of industry’s workforce

Pittsburgh (September 23, 2020) – Led by strong growth in solar energy, grid modernization, and energy efficiency, Pennsylvania added more than 3,000 net new clean energy jobs in 2019, continuing a years-long trend that made the state one of the fastest-growing for clean energy before the COVID-19 economic crisis, according to a new report from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance (KEEA), the Green Building Alliance (GBA), Green Building United, the Suitable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, and Sustainable Pittsburgh.

93,900 Pennsylvanians worked in solar, wind, energy efficiency, grid modernization, energy storage, clean vehicles and other clean energy occupations at the end of 2019, according to the new report Clean Jobs Pennsylvania 2020. That was up from 90,800 in 2018 and 85,600 in 2017, a rate (9.6%) nearly five times faster than statewide employment growth during that time (2.0%) and three times faster than fossil fuel. Employment in renewable energy industries grew 12% from 2017 to 2019 as jobs in natural gas declined 10% according to the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER). Nationwide, Pennsylvania had the seventh fastest-growing clean energy sector from 2017-2019.

This growth has benefitted the state’s union workers who accounted for about 9.4% of clean energy jobs in 2019, the fifth highest in the country and only behind New York on the East Coast. Despite this high-unionization, Pennsylvania continues to have one of the lowest ratios of clean jobs as a share of all jobs in the region. Clean energy jobs accounted for just 1.6% of all statewide jobs while in nearby Maryland, Massachusetts, and Delaware clean energy accounts for over 3%. Notwithstanding, clean energy employed more Pennsylvanians than worked as truck drivers and schoolteachers at the end of 2019 and over two times more than worked in fossil fuels (44,000).

But the state’s recent success has been upended due to the COVID-19 related economic downturn, according to a separate monthly report series from E2. While some jobs have been recovered over the last several months, Pennsylvania’s clean energy industries remain down some 18,300 jobs since the pandemic began in March—more than double the sector’s entire job growth since 2017. The losses represent 19% of the sector’s total workforce.

Clean Jobs Pennsylvania 2020 comes as the state inches closer to enacting new policies that could jumpstart this growth including efforts in the legislature to increase the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) that has not been updated in over 15 years and Governor Wolf’s push to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Longer-term trends in Pennsylvania’s clean energy economy, coupled with smart policies like these and other outlined in the report, offer the state various avenues to reclaim lost jobs, create thousands of new ones quickly, and speed the transition of workers whose industries were left exposed by the crisis.

The report was released during a during a virtual briefing on the latest clean energy job trends and figures from the new report as well as the unemployment impact on the sector since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. For more details on the briefing see here:

E2 Pennsylvania Consultant Sharon Pillar said:

“While the economic impacts from COVID have been significant across the entire workforce in Pennsylvania, the fast-growing clean energy sectors demonstrate a significant opportunity to rebound and to add thousands of new jobs and investment to rebuild our economy, particularly if we position our state policies to seize this moment.”

E2 Eastern States Advocate Uchenna Bright said:

“Pennsylvania’s clean energy sector continued to grow in 2019 but had yet to reach its full potential when it was hit with devastating job loss from COVID-19.

“State lawmakers have an opportunity to get Pennsylvania businesses and workers back on their feet by taking advantage of this industry that has created jobs five-times faster than any other industry in the state.  With the right policies, all Pennsylvanian’s can benefit from the greater number of family-sustaining jobs, the cleaner air and the long-term economic growth that a clean energy future can bring.”

Matt Elliott, executive director, KEEA

“In Pennsylvania, energy efficiency is already an economic powerhouse. In 2019, more than 71,000 Pennsylvanians were employed by companies manufacturing high-efficiency products, designing state of the art buildings, retrofitting homes and businesses, and developing and installing cutting-edge energy management software. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of our full clean energy jobs potential. Despite recent job losses due to COVID-19, the energy efficiency industry has proven that it can grow quickly, reliably, and locally. Smart policies from state and local leaders can help facilitate this growth, and we stand ready to get more Pennsylvanians back to work.”

Anna Shipp, executive director, Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia

“This report clearly shows how integral Pennsylvania’s clean energy sectors are to rebuilding our economy. Coming into 2020, Pennsylvania’s clean energy economy was anticipating another record-breaking year of outpacing the state’s overall job growth. Now, 18,000 clean energy workers remain jobless as a result of COVID-19. But the recovery from our last recession proves that investing in clean energy is a proven catalyst for rapid quality job growth. Our state representatives must invest in clean energy sectors as a tool for economic recovery.”

Joylette Portlock, executive director, Sustainable Pittsburgh

“Clean jobs and the policies that prioritize them are vital to a sustainable economic recovery for Pennsylvania. Investing in this sector is part of a responsible path forward for getting residents back to work as soon as possible.”

Jenna Cramer, executive director, Green Building Alliance

“The Pennsylvania clean energy economy has grown over the last seven years at a rate nearly 5 times faster than overall statewide employment growth. It is imperative that we center the clean energy sector in Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 recovery strategy while creating a healthy, resilient, sustainable, equitable, and economically vibrant region for years to come.”

Alex Dews, executive director, Green Building United

“Stay-at-home orders remind us of the importance of making our homes healthy, safe, and comfortable. Unfortunately for many Pennsylvanians, their homes are energy inefficient, making them costly to heat and cool. As part of the recovery from this crisis, we need to double down on the clean energy economy to continue to deliver climate, health, and resilience benefits to all Pennsylvanians.”

In addition to detailing sector-by-sector employment, Clean Jobs Pennsylvania 2020 also breakdown jobs down to the city, county, legislative and congressional district levels. See more details at http://www.e2.org/cleanjobspa.

According to the report, Pennsylvania continued to outpace neighboring states in clean energy jobs in 2019. Only New Jersey (10.8%) and West Virginia (10.3%) have seen faster growth since 2017 while New York and Florida are the only states on the entire East Coast to have added more jobs.

Nationwide, Pennsylvania ranked No. 11 in total clean energy jobs for the third straight year in 2019. However, the state has closed the gap to No. 10 Virginia recently – cutting the gap nearly in half from 6,300 in 2017 to 3,400 in 2019.  While the state’s biggest concentrations of clean energy jobs were in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas, 12% of the state’s clean energy jobs (11,300) were in rural areas.

More details by sector:

  • Energy efficiency is the biggest sector of the state’s clean energy economy, employing 71,400 workers at year-end 2019;
  • Renewable energy employed 9,700 workers, including more than 5,000 in solar energy;
  • Jobs related to clean vehicles, including hybrid-electric and electric vehicles, employed 7,500;
  • Grid and storage companies employed 3,700 and had the fastest growth rate of any clean energy occupation, growing 6.5% in 2019.

Other key findings:

  • Small businesses are the backbone of the clean energy economy. Nearly two out of every three (66.1%) clean energy workers were employed at companies with fewer than 20 workers;
  • 1 in 6 construction jobs in Pennsylvania 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;
  • Pennsylvania ranks 11th or 12th for jobs in 14 sectors and subsectors – helping the state diversify jobs growth across the clean energy economy;
  • Clean energy accounts for 35% of all energy sector jobs in Pennsylvania and made up 38% of the sector’s total job growth in 2019;
  • From 2017 to 2019, clean energy jobs grew more than five times faster than statewide employment, three times faster than fossil fuel employment, and 50% faster than overall energy employment.

Background:

Clean Jobs Pennsylvania 2020 is the second 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. 

Additional Resources:

Previous E2 Clean Jobs Pennsylvania Reports:

Previous E2 Clean Energy Unemployment Reports

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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.

The Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance (KEEA) is Pennsylvania’s trade association for the energy efficiency industry. Our membership, comprised of seventy companies, ranges from small local firms to large multinational corporations and operates across the value chain of energy efficiency. We engage our membership and key policymakers in support of an industry that accounts for more than 71,000 Pennsylvania jobs.

Green Building Alliance (GBA) advances innovation in the built environment by empowering people to create environmentally, economically and socially vibrant places. Founded in 1993, GBA is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization—and one of the oldest regional green building organizations in the United States. GBA proudly serves Pittsburgh and the 26 counties of Western Pennsylvania, with stakeholders across the Mid-Atlantic, United States, and the world.

Green Building United promotes the development of buildings that are sustainable, healthy for inhabitants, resilient, and cost effective. Through education, advocacy, and strategic initiatives Green Building United informs and engages individuals and organizations to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated.

Sustainable Business Network’s mission is to build a just, green, and thriving economy in the Greater Philadelphia region using education and by growing a broad base of local, independent businesses.

At Sustainable Pittsburgh, we empower decision-making that builds a fundamentally equitable, resilient, healthy, and prosperous region.

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