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California’s Advanced-Energy Workforce Tops Half a Million, Up 18%

April 21, 2016
Advanced energy work includes energy efficiency, advanced electricity generation, biofuels, advanced grid technology, and advanced vehicles.
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Employment in California’s advanced-energy industry grew 18 percent—six times the rate of statewide employment growth—last year, a new report by the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) Institute says.

An estimated 508,000 California workers spend some or all of their time on advanced energy work, including energy efficiency, electricity generation, biofuels, grid technology, and vehicles. That is three times the number employed in the motion-picture, television, and radio industry (145,000) and more than the number employed in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry (475,000). With one in every five advanced-energy workers nationwide, California has the largest advanced-energy industry by employment of any state in the country.

The survey of more than 800 companies doing business in California is the second study of advanced-energy employment in the state conducted by BW Research Partnership, a workforce and economic-development research firm. The first survey, published in December 2014, found 431,000 advanced-energy workers in California, with employers predicting they would add workers at a rate of 17 percent in 2015, bringing the total to more than 500,000.

“California is the nation’s leader in advanced-energy policy, and that leadership is paying off in jobs for Californians,” Graham Richard, chief executive officer of Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a national business association, and the AEE Institute, its affiliated nonprofit educational organization, said. “Advanced-energy jobs have grown at a much faster rate than jobs overall, and employers expect that to continue. That’s good news for advanced-energy companies and for the California economy.”

Employers engaged in advanced energy expect to increase their workforce by 8 percent in 2016, bringing advanced-energy employment to nearly 550,000.

Findings of the survey include:

  • Workers engaged in advanced energy make up 3 percent of the state workforce overall, up from 2.5 percent in 2014.
  • By far, the largest share of advanced-energy jobs—63 percent, or roughly 320,000 workers—is in energy efficiency. But this share is down from 74 percent in 2014, as some smaller segments of advanced-energy employment have grown faster.
  • Employment grew fastest in the advanced-grid segment, which includes smart-grid, storage, and electric-vehicle-charging technologies. The advanced-grid workforce more than doubled between 2014 and 2015, with the addition of more than 11,000 new jobs.
  • The greatest increase in number of jobs came in advanced generation, with solar accounting for nearly 80 percent of jobs. Advanced-generation employment grew 50 percent over 2014, with the creation of nearly 48,000 jobs in the state. Advanced transportation, which includes hybrid, electric, and natural-gas vehicles, also saw impressive growth, with the addition of nearly 7,000 new workers to payrolls, 65 percent more than in 2014.
  • The only advanced-energy segment that lost jobs was advanced fuels, including biofuels and biomass, which were impacted by low oil and gasoline prices. Advanced-fuel employment fell more than 50 percent last year, resulting in a loss of about 8,000 jobs.
  • California’s advanced-energy workforce is quite diverse. Although predominantly (74 percent) male, advanced-energy workers are 38 percent racial or ethnic minorities, with the minority share of last year’s hires slightly higher (39 percent).
  • California has nearly 43,000 companies engaged in advanced energy as part or all of their business activity.
  • California’s advanced-energy industry primarily is composed of small businesses, but there is a shift toward larger establishments as the industry matures. Three-quarters of advanced-energy businesses have 24 or fewer permanent employees, but that is down from 81 percent last year. Firms with 25 to 49 employees grew from 6 percent of the industry in 2014 to 9 percent in 2015. The share of medium to large firms (those that employ 25 to 249 workers) also has grown, from 13 percent to 22 percent.
  • Companies increasingly are relying on advanced-energy business as their primary source of revenue. In 2014, four in 10 firms derived all of their revenue from advanced-energy activity. In 2015, almost half of the firms derived all of their revenue from advanced-energy activity.

The report, “Advanced Energy Jobs in California,” is available at http://info.aee.net/advanced-energy-jobs-in-california-2016.