"Job creation" is always a winning political phrase, but it’s especially powerful in tough times like these. And though the campaigns may vary on strategy, one thing is clear in the U.S. and around the world: green jobs are booming.
Last Thursday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released a study predicting 4.2 million new domestic jobs in renewable energy by 2038, up from 750,000 today.
That accompanies other milestones city chiefs expect in America’s renewable energy march over the next few decades, including:
- 40% of electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal
- 30% of car and light truck fuel from biofuels and other green sources
- 35% in consumption cuts, making all of those new sources go farther
Our national renewable energy policy got a nudge towards those goals in the bailout bill that passed last week. A separate measure to expand a more than $17 billion renewable energy tax credit program for solar, wind, and other sources was included in the financial rescue plan.
The Renewable Energy Job Creation Act of 2008, as the tax credit measure was previously known, is one of the few real pieces of economic encouragement that got bundled into the early-October package.
Energy independence is an important theme to voters, and the cry for homegrown fuel sources doesn’t stop at, "Drill, baby, drill!" Wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels and cleantech are political winners for both major parties these days.
On the ground level, we’re already seeing a surge in interest in new energy employment.
Finding Green Jobs
Greenjobs.com, a website run by former British Petroleum executive Dr. Peter Beadle, is linking job seekers with clean energy companies that are eager to hire new talent.
I spoke with Peter today, and he told me about some of the trends he’s observed since founding the website in 2004.
"We’ve got over 20,000 job seekers registered," the past head of BP’s solar energy division started. When Greenjobs.com began, most hiring was done by "poaching" talent from within the industry. That’s not the best strategy for anyone, so Dr. Beadle and his partners set up a growing network to expand everyone’s options and opportunities.
"What industries do most of the job seekers on your site come from?" I asked.
As CEO of Greenjobs, Peter is in a position to watch forecasts become reality. And he’s noticing some interesting trends among applicants.
"Perhaps surprisingly, the people who seem to find it easiest to break into renewable energy from outside are salespeople," he said.
And guess where a ton of new applicants for renewable energy sales jobs are coming from?
That’s right, as the housing market and related jobs continue to suffer, realtors are piling into the economy’s best hope to emerge from the mortgage meltdown.
And new positions will be available at all parts of the employment spectrum, from salespeople to top engineers, and from solar cell assembly line workers to farmers growing biofuel feedstock.
Of course, that’s not just here in the U.S….
On the global level, the United Nations Environment Program came out with its own promising stats lately, saying that the global alternative energy industry is on pace to create 20 million jobs by 2030. That’s an even shorter term than the U.S. Conference of Mayors gives, because the world’s fastest-growing markets are betting big on renewables.
In China, for example, clean energy technology will improve efficiency and find new sources of fuel, and venture capital money into cleantech has doubled over the past year. Frankly, some of the jobs created by 2030 are likely to be in green sectors that haven’t even been developed yet.
Israel is going full-speed into cleantech after Israeli engineers and start-ups brought us instant messenger, Intel’s Pentium chip, and flash memory in the 90s. That tiny state is drawing loads of venture money, and its highest-profile electric car project is based partially in California’s Silicon Valley. That shows the true international nature of the new energy economy and the way money flows through it.
Right now the market looks bleak for investors and workers alike. But to paraphrase an old saying, it really is greener on the other side.
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