When you think of energy jobs, you may first picture someone fixing a wind turbine or installing a solar panel.
These jobs are certainly on the rise. But as businesses and home owners increasingly seek cost savings on their utility bills, a large portion of energy jobs today – almost a third in fact – are focused on efficiency.
More than 133,000 energy efficiency jobs were added in 2016, bringing the total number of Americans working in the sector to 2.2 million people. More than half of those jobs (1.4 million) are in the construction industry alone. Whether it’s construction, manufacturing, or wholesale trade, much of this job growth has been driven by four technology areas.
More than a quarter of the energy efficiency workforce (552,000 workers) is related to efficient appliances, including high efficiency heating and cooling equipment. That’s a 58% increase from 2015. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) support continues to push the envelope on innovation across a range of common appliances – from high performance refrigerators to more efficient air conditioners – with the ultimate goal of keeping more money in consumers’ pockets.
Another 25% of the energy efficiency workforce is employed in the traditional HVAC industry. While these 520,000 workers spend a majority of their time working with conventional heating and cooling services, part of their work is also dedicated to high efficiency technologies.
Innovation has driven significant progress in reducing the energy consumption of buildings and homes, including technology advancements like next-generation windows and building envelope technologies. Better insulation and more efficient windows reduce the energy needed to heat and cool homes and commercial buildings. This saves money on utility bills and keeps occupants more comfortable.
These advancements also mean more job opportunities. Last year, 446,000 workers were employed in roles related to advanced building materials. DOE-backed research continues to develop new materials and methods to improve insulation and windows, including innovative sprayable insulation and new smart window coatings.
Another 327,000 workers are employed in the energy-efficient lighting industry.
DOE-backed research in solid-state lighting has yielded more than 260 patents and a significant industry footprint, with literally millions of products currently on the market based, at least in part, on these technical advancements. These products are estimated to have contributed to more than $2.8 billion in savings for consumers and businesses – an impressive return on an investment of about $350 million.