Report shows Vermont’s clean energy sector grew 3.4 percent

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Report shows Vermont’s clean energy sector grew 3.4 percent

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 2:20pm -- tim

Governor Peter Shumlin today kicked off his ‘Solar Summer Tour,’ the first in a series of stops around the state in the coming months to highlight the strength of Vermont’s solar and renewable energy sector and its growing impact on job creation, the state’s economy and the environment. Joined by Public Service Department Commissioner Christopher Recchia, the Governor released the "2014 Vermont Clean Energy Industry Report", the first effort in the state to survey and describe the status and characteristics of Vermont’s clean energy industry. Among the findings, Vermont’s clean energy industry employs 15,286 workers at 2,684 locations, and has seen a growth of 3.4 percent in the last 12 months.

“This report confirms what I’ve believed for a long time – that the clean energy industry in Vermont is vibrant and vital to our economy, and presents a tremendous opportunity for good paying jobs for Vermonters, as we solve our energy challenges to get off of fossil fuels,” Shumlin said. “This report also provides us with an important baseline from which to measure our progress and enable us to see how we’re doing compared to other states. I’m pleased to see we’re doing quite well.”

The Department’s Clean Energy Development Fund commissioned BW Research Inc to conduct a study of the clean energy cluster and issue the report.

“Vermont’s clean energy industry has developed into an important part of our economy,” said Commissioner Recchia. “Developing more clean energy jobs and expanding markets for Vermont’s energy entrepreneurs will serve us well in both improving our economy and helping us meet our goal of obtaining 90 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2050.”

“This report shows that the clean energy sector is an important contributor to Vermont’s economy,” said George Twigg, Director of Public Affairs at Efficiency Vermont. “Investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy doesn’t just reduce energy costs, it creates jobs for Vermonters. By reducing the amount of money that we export out of the state or overseas to purchase dirty, expensive energy, we are able to keep those resources right here in Vermont to create jobs and invest in local businesses.”

Important findings of the report include:

Vermont’s clean energy industry employs 15,286 workers at 2,684 locations. This represents approximately 4.3 percent of the state’s workforce, likely the highest percentage in the country.  Of these workers, 73.8 percent spend a majority of their time and 52.2 percent spend all of their time conducting clean energy work.

Clean Energy jobs grew 3.4 percent over the past 12 months, and 1,832 workers are expected to be added over the next 12 months, representing a projected growth rate of 12 percent. The report finds that 81 percent of the workers hired over the last 12 months were new employees, while the other 19 percent represent existing employees that were given new clean energy responsibilities.

Energy Efficiency employs 7,800 workers, representing over 50 percent of the industry’s total work force.  Within renewable energy employment (representing 30 percent of the total jobs), solar leads with 1,551 workers which is in-line with the Solar Foundation’s national report in 2013 that found Vermont to be number one in solar jobs per capita.  The biomass energy sector had the second highest number of renewable energy jobs with 1,384.

Small businesses are critical to Vermont’s Clean Energy industry. The survey indicated that the majority of clean energy establishments are small, with 61.9 percent having five or fewer employees, and only 1.5 percent of the firms surveyed having 100 or more total workers.

In addition, renewable energy employment is quite diverse in Vermont, with responses that included employment in solar, wind, biomass, liquid biofuels, hydropower, agriculture methane, landfill and/or non-farm methane, and other sources.

The entire value chain of clean energy activities (research, design and engineering; manufacturing, sales and distribution, installation, energy generation) is well represented in Vermont.  Nearly 40 percent of the industry’s employment involves installation and with about another quarter doing research, design, engineering or manufacturing.

Vermont’s clean energy industry is heavily built around in-state customers. Respondents indicated that 68.9 percent of the total customer base for the industry is located in the state. In addition, over 64 percent of Vermont’s clean energy businesses report that over half their vendors and suppliers are located in Vermont.

The report identifies areas for future study such as gaining a better understanding of workforce development needs and those of small businesses in the clean energy industry. In conclusion, the report notes that the environment for grants, tax and other incentives for clean energy goods and services will need to be monitored closely as these financial supports were reported as being very important and woven into optimistic growth projections.

About the Report Methodology and Survey:

The clean energy cluster was defined to include many different types of clean energy goods and services including energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean transportation, greenhouse gas management and accounting, and support services.

Existing labor market data does not categorize clean energy firms or workers separately from their traditional economy counterparts. To fill this information gap, the PSD’s Clean Energy Development Fund commissioned a research study by BW Research Partnership, Inc.  The report is based on a survey of Vermont businesses in February and March of 2014 created to replicate studies done in several other states that rely on similar direct employer feedback through a representative survey effort.

The research team made more than 10,000 telephone calls and sent over 1,200 emails to employers, yielding 1,464 survey responses with an overall combined margin of error for employment questions of approximately +/- 2.25 to 3.89 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval. Data collection occurred between February 24 and March 21, 2014 using online and telephone methods. Telephone surveys were administered by Castleton Polling Group in Rutland.

Source: Governor's office 6.23.2014. Photo: a 2.2 mw solar farm in South Burlington