California’s Advanced Energy Sector Booms

Employment figures in California show that the advanced energy industry is growing faster than most other long-standing industries.
Published: Thu 21 Apr 2016

California's advanced energy industry is growing exponentially and this is evident in its employment statistics. The industry is responsible for the employment of over half a million workers-this is up 18% from 2014 and six times the rate of statewide employment growth.

That is according to research from the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) Institute, which also reports that advanced energy accounts for over 3% of the state total.

More than half a million California workers spend some or all of their time on advanced energy work, including energy efficiency, advanced electricity generation, biofuels, advanced grid technology and advanced vehicles. Further, employers in the advanced energy business are looking towards increasing their workforce by 8% this year.

Advanced energy bigger than the movies?

At just more than 500,000 workers, advanced energy employs three times as many Californians as the motion picture, TV, and radio industry (145,000); more than agriculture, forestry, and fishing (475,000); and is fast approaching construction (750,000). With one in every five advanced energy workers nationwide, California has the largest advanced energy industry by employment of any state in the country.

Employment grew fastest in the advanced grid segment, which includes smart grid, storage and electric vehicle charging technologies -- more than doubling between 2014 and 2015, adding over 11,000 new jobs, according to AEE Institute.

The research shows that the greatest increase in number of jobs came in advanced generation, with solar accounting for nearly 80%. Advanced generation employment grew 50% over 2014, creating almost 48,000 new jobs in the state. Advanced transportation, which includes hybrid, electric, and natural gas vehicles, also saw growth, adding just under 7,000 new workers – 65% more than in 2014.

The only advanced energy segment that lost jobs was advanced fuels, including biofuels and biomass, which were both impacted by low oil and gasoline prices. Advanced fuel employment fell more than 50% last year, resulting in a loss of about 8,000 jobs.

California serious about clean energy

We have written a number of articles around California’s push towards clean and sustainable energy solutions.  Not that long ago, the California Energy Commission gave the nod to two major energy investment plans that could total almost US$0.5 billion. The first investment will go towards clean energy research and the other will fund an annual clean transportation investment plan that is designed to spark innovation in projects that will help transform California's fleet to meet greenhouse gas and clean air goals. [California Invests in its Clean Energy Future.]

California governor Jerry Brown has also just upped the renewable energy challenge for the state. In his inaugural address in January, he proposed that 50% of electricity should be derived from renewable sources by 2030 – up from the earlier target of one-third by 2020, which he noted the state was on track to achieving. In addition, he proposed that by 2030 the efficiency of existing buildings should be doubled and heating fuels made cleaner, and today's petroleum use in cars and trucks be halved.

In support of this increase in renewable energy, California continues to take a lead in the development of energy storage- with the state’s three energy organizations - California Independent System Operator (ISO), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and California Energy Commission (CEC) – compiling the first storage roadmap. [California Seeks To Advance Energy Storage.] Two years ago, California literally created a market overnight by issuing an energy storage mandate [California’s Energy Storage Mandate-Will Others Follow?].

California’s impressive energy journey is translating into a number of long term opportunities as it creates new skills, provides employment, develops a cleaner energy efficient environment and energy security.  A state that many countries worldwide can learn a lot from.

Further Reading

Advanced Energy Economy-Advanced Energy Jobs in California