By Charles Hernick and Lisa Jacobson
The economic expansion since 2009 is historic not just for its duration, but for the role that
America’s energy sector has played in creating jobs and reducing carbon emissions. Over the
past 12 months this trend has solidified and brought our domestic energy sector to its cleanest
place in history.
While the energy jobs of our forefathers still exist, the most dynamic growth is now occurring in
clean energy generation, according to the 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook,
released this week. This includes natural gas, solar, wind, hydropower, biofuels, and waste-to-
energy — and energy efficiency. Together, these sectors support 3 million jobs nationwide.
The strength of job creation in clean energy generation comes partly from the wide-ranging skill
base required to convert the power of the sun, wind, water, and waste into kilowatts needed to
power our homes. Clean energy production creates jobs at many stages in the process — not
just manufacturing. Additional jobs can be found in system design, project development,
installation, operation and management — and the information technology that ties it all
The development of clean energy generation projects also drives jobs for other industries that
tend to be inherently local. For example, an effective natural gas plant or commercial-scale
solar, wind, or hydropower project is a major undertaking requiring steel infrastructure,
landscaping, civil engineering and substantial manpower to lay transmission lines or pipelines.
Biomass projects require close coordination with local paper companies and foresters. Even
rooftop solar projects require highly skilled labor…
This fast-paced transformation of the energy sector continues to drive our economy’s de-
carbonization. Emissions from this sector ebbed 4.2 percent in 2017, this time on the back of
declining load and greater renewable generation instead of switching from coal to natural gas.
As a result, power-sector emissions are now 28 percent below their 2005 peak.
The message of these groundbreaking statistics is simple and straightforward. A growing
economy does not have to be at odds with lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, thanks
to thoughtful policy, entrepreneurial spirit, and hard work by more and more Americans
employed by the clean energy sector we are turning the corner towards a sustainable energy
economy capable of improving job creation alongside with environmental quality.
Charles Hernick is the director of Policy and Advocacy at Citizens for Responsible Energy
Solutions Forum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to educating the public and
influencing the national conversation about clean energy. @charleshernick
Lisa Jacobson is the president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, a coalition of
companies and trade associations from the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy