A new report by BW Research finds that workers in clean energy jobs earned 25% higher wages than the national average. E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), the American Council on Renewable Energy, and the Clean Energy Leadership Institute commissioned the report to understand the quality of employment opportunities in clean energy–related industries.

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Analysists gathered data for clean energy wages, benefits, and unionization rates across all five clean energy sectors:

  • Renewable energy generation
  • Energy efficiency
  • Clean fuels
  • Clean vehicles
  • Grid modernization and storage

According to the analysis, clean energy workers earned a median hourly wage of $23.89 in 2019 while the national median wage was $19.14. The median hourly pay in solar was the best in the whole clean energy field, coming in at $24.48 per hour, 31% higher than the national median.

"Clean energy jobs are now undeniably a major part of our economy," stated the report (download the PDF here). "At the end of 2019, more than 3.3 million Americans worked in clean energy occupations…. That is more Americans who worked in clean energy than worked as schoolteachers,
real estate agents, farmers, or bankers—and nearly three times the number of Americans that work in fossil fuel companies."

What's more, thanks to unionization, clean energy jobs are more likely than other private-sector jobs to come with healthcare and retirement benefits. Unionization in the clean energy field was clocked at 9%; in the private sector nationally it is 6%.

“Renewable energy now is at what is called grid parity. That means it is no more expensive to put up a solar field than it is to put up a coal plant.”

   —Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, to CBS News

Better Opportunities for Workers Left Jobless by COVID-19

Clean energy jobs pay much better than jobs in the industries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which include retail, hotels, food service, and entertainment. The report found that average wages in those fields are 27% to 40% lower than the national average. The median pay for those jobs is $11.50 to $13.90 an hour.

"In addition to higher hourly wages, clean energy jobs have spread to nearly every county in America—making the industry
particularly efficient for producing new and better employment opportunities for workers left jobless by the pandemic," reads the report.

Top States by Median Clean Energy Wage
1. Massachusetts, $29.84 6. Washington, $25.39
2. D.C., $27.56 7. Connecticut, $25.19
3. California, $27.49 8. Maryland, $24.37
4. New York, $27.07 9. New Jersey, $24.22
5. Alaska, $25.75 10. Oregon, $23.91

No Relocation Necessary

Not only do clean energy jobs pay more than the national average, but in some states they pay much more than other jobs in the same state. In California and Texas, for instance, clean energy workers earn about 29% and 28% more than their state's median wage, respectively.

Other substantial wage bumps were seen in Louisiana (25%), Georgia (20%), and Tennessee (15%).

These results show that workers don't have to leave their state to seek higher-paying opportunities in clean energy. While certification or other training is often required for entry-level positions in clean energy, not having to migrate to where the jobs are is a definite plus.

Speaking with PV magazine, the executive director at E1, Bob Keefe, said, "These jobs pay better, come with better benefits—and they’re also helping fight climate change and the growing economic costs that come with it."

Clean energy jobs are growing faster than any other segment of the energy sector, the report found, accounting for about half of all new energy jobs over the past three years.

Keefe said, "We need policies that ensure these good-paying jobs continue to grow and are available to every American in every state."

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