The latest U.S. Energy and Employment Report has forecast that the sector of energy efficiency will see a 9-percent increase in employment this year – the highest growth rate across energy sectors, according to the Department of Energy.
The survey was conducted among 30,000+ employers from the energy industry, who shared their hiring plans for the next 12 months.
Within the energy efficiency sector, the Department also said, the highest growth in employment will be in construction, at 11 percent, followed by the segment of wholesale trade, distribution, and transport, with an expected employment growth rate of 8.3 percent. The segment of professional and business services in energy efficiency will hire 6.7 percent more this year, and the manufacturing segment will see a less impressive 4.9-percent growth.
So far, so good, given that the energy efficiency sector already employed 2.2 million people as of end-2016, which represented an increase of 7 percent on 2015, with construction again topping the list of segments, with growth of 12 percent. In fact, according to the Department’s Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy, the energy efficiency segment “produced 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016.”
The report seems certainly upbeat on energy efficiency employment, but the full picture is not as rosy as it may seem, and challenges remain.
For starters, the Department of Energy found that hiring qualified employees in energy efficiency is a difficult task. This is particularly true for the best performing segment of construction. According to the survey, 43.5 percent of the employers polled said it was very difficult to find qualified job applicants, compared to 25 percent in manufacturing, 27.9 percent in wholesale trade, distribution, and transport, and 21.5 percent in professional and business services. Related: Saudi Arabia To Spend $50 Billion On Massive Solar Push
Overall, as much as 80 percent of the sample said that they have some sort of difficulty finding qualified new hires in the energy efficiency segment of the energy industry. The most commonly cited reason for this difficulty was the lack of education, training, or other qualifications by the job applicants across the energy efficiency board. The second most common reason for hiring difficulties was the lack of experience, training, or technical skills, followed by the lack of non-technical skills. This, of course, suggests that had there been more qualified applicants, the growth in employment in energy efficiency would have been even more pronounced.
There is also one more important detail to consider. The energy efficiency segment includes a lot of natural gas—and gas, although greener than oil, is not as green as solar or wind (if we ignore the emissions associated with the production of the turbines and the panels, which we will, for the sake of focus). Why is natural gas included in the energy efficiency part? Because it’s greener than oil and lowering production costs for gas extraction falls under “energy efficiency.”
This blurs the picture a bit, as it puts a fossil fuel with the renewables. Yet, the good news of more energy efficiency jobs is still good news – this means more efficiency advancements are on the way. And more gas, obviously.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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