The Growing Need for Trained Energy Professionals

May 6, 2010
Aging workforce, new green jobs create greater need for skill development

Each year, the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) surveys its 11,000 members to determine market trends and forces impacting the profession. With the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, AEE surveyed its members to determine the impact stimulus funding would have on the creation of green jobs. Based on the responses of 978 energy professionals, the survey found:

  • Forty-one percent plan to retire within the next 10 years.
  • Seventy-two percent foresee a heightened shortage of qualified professionals within the energy-efficiency and renewable-energy fields in the next five years.
  • Seventy percent indicate national and state training for green jobs is needed to address shortages that are impairing growth in green industries, such as energy-efficient buildings and construction, renewables, electric power, Smart Grid, energy-efficient vehicles, and biofuels.

Market Forces Creating Green Jobs
The ARRA will fund:

Energy efficiency. State energy programs have been allotted $3.1 billion, which will encourage states to improve building energy and retrofits. Funds earmarked for other energy-efficiency initiatives include:

  • $5 billion for the weatherization of low-income housing.
  • $4.5 billion for green federal buildings.
  • $3.6 billion for U.S. Department of Defense energy-efficiency projects and facilities upgrades.
  • $3.2 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants to help state and local governments implement energy-efficiency projects.
  • $500 million for job training and various programs to prepare individuals for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy careers.

Solar energy. The ARRA contains provisions for:

  • The Renewable Energy Grant Program, which offers U.S. Department of Energy grants equal to 30 percent of the cost of any solar projects that are started in the next two years, including large-scale utility projects. This is a critical alternative to solar tax credits that are not functioning as Congress intended in the current economic climate.
  • The Loan Guarantee Program, which creates a new, streamlined program that supports the financing of renewable-energy systems, including solar-energy technology.
  • The Manufacturing Investment Credit, which creates a 30-percent investment tax credit for facilities engaged in the manufacture of renewable-energy property or equipment.

Smart Grid/advanced battery/energy efficiency. Initiatives, such as a new, smart power grid, advanced battery technology, and energy-efficiency measures, will receive $30 billion. According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 500,000 energy jobs will be created.

Growing energy market. The revenue for the North American energy-management-services market in 2008 was $20.35 billion. It is projected to double to more than $40 billion by 2013 because of favorable new government legislations and increased knowledge about the benefits of energy management.

The Need for Training
The green marketplace is changing rapidly, and professionals need training to keep abreast of technological advances. Thirty-four states now require professional-development hours or continuing-education units as a prerequisite for professional-engineer-license renewal.

Corporate America has joined the green movement. Companies have created new positions, such as a carbon-reduction manager, as the demand to reduce corporate carbon footprints takes hold. Individuals need training to develop skills for the new green-jobs marketplace.

Did you find this article useful? Send comments and suggestions to Associate Editor Megan White at [email protected].

The founder of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), Albert Thumann, PE, CEM, has served as the association’s executive director for more than 30 years. Under his leadership, the non-profit association has grown to 11,000 professionals in 67 countries. He has authored more than 25 reference books on energy, including "Handbook of Energy Engineering," "Handbook of Energy Audits," and "Plant Engineers and Managers Guide to Energy Conservation." For more information on AEE training programs, visit