Report: Clean Energy jobs growing in Pa.

July 14, 2016

Pennsylvania residents working in “clean energy” jobs – those involving everything from upgrading facilities with energy efficient lighting and insulation to working on solar and wind energy projects – now account for about 66,000 direct positions, according to a report released Thursday.

The research, presented to reporters in a telephone conference call, was sponsored by Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national nonpartisan group, and the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance, a nonprofit corporation that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy industries in the Keystone State.

According to a survey conducted by BW Research Partnership that used data from county, state and federal sources, clean energy jobs were found in every county, congressional district and state legislative district in Pennsylvania and include rural and urban jobs in both blue-collar and white-collar occupations.

According to the report, “Clean Jobs Pennsylvania,” the count included 1,377 positions in Washington County and 223 in Greene County, but the types of jobs were not described.

“There are 66,000 Pennsylvanians working in clean energy, up 15 percent from 2014,” when the last survey was taken, said Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs.

According to Keefe, jobs involving improving energy efficient lighting, upgrading HVAC systems or installing insulation in homes, schools and commercial and industrial sites accounted for about 53,000 clean energy jobs, while another 9,000 were in renewable energy, including 5,000 in solar and 1,400 in wind energy. Another 3,200 were those employed in making improvements to the smart grid and energy storage.

The last category includes 150 people working at Pittsburgh-based Aquion Energy Inc., which manufactures energy storage batteries for the solar and wind industries.

The jobs include scientists, researchers, engineers and construction workers, according to Matt Elliott, executive director of Philadelphia-based Keystone Efficiency Alliance.

Noting that about 80 percent of the clean energy jobs are in energy efficiency efforts – helping to reduce energy waste in homes, schools, offices and factories – Elliott said, “These are jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

All of the speakers during the teleconference noted that Pennsylvania’s Act 129, introduced in 2008 to address energy efficiency efforts, was responsible for helping to create many of the clean energy jobs over the past eight years.

“If Pennsylvania wants to keep clean energy jobs growing, it has to do something about it,” Keefe said, adding that legislators need to bring the bill up to date, including addressing what he said were some outdated energy efficiency codes included in it.

According to BW Research’s Phil Jordan, who led the Pennsylvania study, researchers took an in-depth look at the clean energy industry landscape across the state, making 16,000 calls to businesses as well as examining data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Energy and comparing the data to results for Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Like Keefe and Elliott, Jordan said Pennsylvania could create “tens of thousands” of additional jobs in clean energy if it continues to update its clean energy legislation.

He noted that the current count of 66,000 jobs in clean energy in the Keystone state “is about the same number of (clean energy) workers that Massachusetts had in 2011.”

Michael Bradwell has been business editor for the Observer-Reporter since 1995, and was named editor of The Energy Report in 2012. He joined the newspaper in 1990 as a general assignment reporter in the Greene County bureau and has also worked as a copy editor. A 1974 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a degree in English, he began his career at the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette. Prior to joining the O-R, he served as public relations director for Old Bedford Village, account executive at two Pittsburgh public relations agencies and copywriter for the country’s largest wholesaler of mutual funds.

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