A green new narrative
The news often presents a binary predicament: saving the environment versus saving jobs. But a new study found that in the United States there are now more energy-efficiency (EE) jobs than fossil fuel jobs.
“The real story is that clean-energy jobs are a huge part of our economy,” said Micaela Preskill, Midwest advocate for Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).
Michigan is leading the way as one of the top 10 states championing green jobs in the energy sector. Michigan came in eighth in energy-efficiency employment, according to an October study conducted by E2, E4TheFuture and BW Research Partnership.
“While politicians argue over the direction of our energy transition, the economic benefits of improving energy efficiency continue to unite America’s business and environmental interests,” said Pat Stanton, director of policy at E4TheFuture.
“Not only is expanding America’s energy efficiency key to solving multiple climate policy goals, it is now integral to businesses’ expansion plans – saving money and creating local jobs that cannot be outsourced,” said Stanton
The energy-efficiency industry now employs 85,061 Michiganders, a 2.9% increase from 2018. Energy-efficiency jobs grew 3.4% nationally last year, which was double the growth rate for jobs nationwide. In 2019, 7.8% growth is projected.
EE: prevalent now and in the future
EE workers are found in almost every county in the nation. In 41 states, including Michigan, the EE industry employs more workers than the fossil fuels industry. Today there are 360,000 energy efficiency businesses in the U.S., including 17,000 in Michigan.
All 14 Michigan congressional districts have more than 3,000 energy efficiency jobs. And small businesses, defined as businesses with fewer than 20 workers, account for 79% of Michigan’s EE jobs. EE jobs also employ a lot of veterans. While veterans account for 6% of the U.S. workforce, 11% of EE jobs go to vets.
“We all know energy efficiency saves consumers and businesses money with every month’s power bill,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of E2. “We should also remember that energy efficiency is creating jobs and driving economic growth in every state – and doing so while also helping our environment, not hurting it.”
The stats are in: EE by the numbers
The report by E2, E4 and BW Research Partnership shows that construction and manufacturing account for more than 70% of U.S. EE jobs. In Michigan, the vast majority of energy efficiency jobs are in advanced materials, according to Preskill.
The path forward Preskill said green jobs are the future, the only way forward. She also said energy efficiency jobs are a “win-win” because they’re good for the environment and save both businesses and consumers alike on energy costs. She explained that means more money for businesses to invest and more money in the pockets of consumers who will spend that money and further drive business.
“It just makes sense,” Preskill noted.
Preskill said a lot of these positive changes have been a direct effect of governmental policy in Michigan as well as at the national level, including tax incentives and other laws.
What’s good for the environment is smart for business
Executive Director of Michigan Energy Options (MEO) John Kinch said businesses are turning to green energy because consumers are demanding it, and not doing so can have deleterious effects on their supply chains.
The future direction of business (is now): Was Gordon Gekko right?
According to MEO’s 2018 report, “For every dollar a small business invests in energy efficiency, it can get three dollars returned in energy savings.”
“The research says we can slash greenhouse gas by 2050. We can make huge progress in our climate goals, provide good jobs and save consumers money,” said Preskill.
Like E2, which has the tagline “Good for the Economy. Good for the Environment,” Kinch said what’s good for the planet is good for business.