As many U.S. companies and legislators attempt to shift the country's energy market to cleaner sources, jobs in the sector have grown rapidly. According to a report from the Ecotech Institute, there were nearly 88 percent more open positions in the industry in the first two quarters of 2014 than there were at the same time last year.
Since Jan. 1, 2014, around 1.2 million jobs have become available, bringing the total number of opportunities to more than 2.6 million, according to the institute's Clean Jobs Index. The report considers a clean energy job to be one that "benefits the environment or conserves natural resources," the basis for the definition used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"This Clean Jobs Index really demonstrates the rapid growth of the sustainable energy industry. Almost double the clean jobs were posted in the first half of 2014 compared to the first half of 2013," Chris Gorrie, Ecotech's academic dean, said in the report.
Power utility technician jobs made up the bulk of the increase. These jobs increased in availability 132 percent over the year. Workers in this field are generally responsible for maintaining and operating power plants and electricity transmission. When it comes to green energy sources, solar power had by far the biggest growth. Opportunities for solar workers increased 116 percent since 2013. For comparison, wind power, which saw the next largest increase, gained 65 percent more positions.
Smaller gains were seen across several other parts of the clean energy sector. Jobs enhancing the energy efficiency of existing technologies and plants expanded the least, but still grew 53 percent since 2013. Renewable energy technology and facility management positions increased 63 and 64 percent, respectively.
Although the recent growth in clean energy jobs is significant, it's not a new trend. Jobs in clean power generation have been increasing for years as technology improves and the market for the service expands. However, in recent years the rate of growth has sped up greatly. In 2011, the BLS reported that jobs in the green goods and services sector accounted for 2.6 percent of total employment. That represented an increase in 157,746 over the year, bringing employment to around 3.4 million.
Due to budget cuts, the BLS has not reported employment statistics for the sector since 2011, but surveys such as Ecotech Institute's show that the industry is still growing.