California leads America in the advanced energy industry, and for that you can thank its forward-thinking politics. According to a recent survey from the Advanced Energy Economy institute — an association of conventional and renewable energy companies like General Electric, First Solar and more — California houses over 40,000 businesses providing over 430,000 jobs in solar, wind, EVs and more. That makes it the avant-garde of the United States’ cleantech assault, mostly because its people, and the people they elect to represent them, are demanding solutions and accountability.
“California is the nation’s leader in advanced energy policy, that much we already knew,” CEO Graham Richard explained in AEE’s press release, which also includes testimonials from the state’s assembly and senate politicians. “Now we also know that California is on the way to half a million people employed in the advanced energy industry by next year.”
That achievement would put California in range of per capita advanced energy employment leader Vermont (4.3 percent), as well as Massachusetts (2.4 percent), which shares its second place medal with The Golden State. But that’s a simple technicality: Unlike those two mini-states, California is the most populous state in the U.S., with a massive economy that rivals most developed nations. So when news arrives that its advanced energy marketplace is larger by employment than its mining, aerospace and even Hollywood sectors, it’s time for the rest of the United States to step up its renewables game.
Digging into the data, NorCal wins the jobs battle outright, with San Francisco and its surrounding Bay Area hosting 67 percent of California’s advanced energy jobs. Los Angeles and the rest of SoCal comes in second with nearly 130,000 jobs, but should hold its head high because nearby Inland Empire, according to AEE, houses the “highest concentration of advanced energy workers (3.8 percent of all jobs)”, thanks to “utility-scale wind and solar installations in the region.”
With AEE’s promise of 70.000 California solar jobs to come, there is little bad news to report.
If you dig a bit deeper, you find some caveats. For example, too much of SoCal’s advanced energy jobs are part of a construction boom that will be harder to sustain as California’s drought intensifies and water shortages constrain unnecessary buildouts and projects — although the state’s quite healthy energy-efficiency jobs market for existing structures should be able to help pick up the slack. And while the state is home to solar leaders like SolarCity and SunPower — whose president Howard Wenger claimed in AEE’s release that for 30 years his company has been “proud to call California our home” — it still provided less than a fourth of the advanced energy employment haul with 73,000 jobs. Since it is cleantech’s most obvious solution for combating catastrophic climate change, solar would be much more dominant in a perfect world.
But we live in an imperfect world, so that’s just a matter of time. While not perfect, California is nevertheless already on the advanced energy clock, and working hard, compared to the rest of sleepy America.
This article appeared at Solar Energy