MassCEC releases 2016 report on job growth in clean energy sector

By Katie Fletcher | December 20, 2016

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center recently released its 2016 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report, showing steady growth in the clean energy industry with an additional 6,300 employed during the past year, a growth of 6 percent.

Clean energy products and technologies are becoming more mainstream. As a result of steady growth in the industry, clean energy now employs 105,212 workers across the commonwealth, which is an increase of 75 percent, or 45,000 jobs, since 2010.

“The clean energy industry in Massachusetts continues to see strong job growth while helping to drive the state’s vibrant innovation economy,” said Stephen Pike, MassCEC CEO. “The clean energy sector is fueled by the economic activity of small businesses, universities, nonprofits, technologists and entrepreneurs hard at work on addressing our most pressing energy challenges.”

The report breaks down these jobs by technology, with nearly 22 percent growth in renewable generation establishments, while efficient heating and cooling businesses declined 17 percent in employment to 20,714 jobs in 2016 from 24,966 in 2015. The report attributed the decrease potentially to warmer weather and lower fossil fuel prices.

Even so, establishments reported more revenue from clean-energy related activities, and 18 percent of gross state product (GSP) contributions came from renewable and efficient heating and cooling activities, or about $2.1 billion in 2015, an increase of 10 percent over the past year. Also, despite the decline in jobs in this category, new hires were significantly more likely to be women or minorities than in prior years.

Participation in the MassSAVE residential heating and cooling programs increased significantly between 2014 and 2015 with 125,363 residents taking part in the program in 2015, compared to 104,220 in the prior year. Also, MassCEC saw a significant increase in its clean heating and cooling programs during this time as it launched new initiatives. 

The report found that clean energy as a whole contributed $11.8 billion to Massachusetts GSP, representing 2.5 percent of the entire Massachusetts economy. Clean energy employees account for 2.9 percent of the overall workforce in the state, the report found. The clean energy industry employs residents of every region in Massachusetts. Jobs grew over the past year in each of the state’s regions, with the largest growth in northeastern Massachusetts (8.8 percent) and southeastern Massachusetts (8.2 percent).

The report found that Massachusetts installed 25,390 renewable energy projects qualified under the Renewable Portfolio Standard in 2016, adding an additional 374 megawatts (MW) of electric capacity in the process, enough to power 56,040 homes. The cumulative total of RPS eligible, in-state capacity increased by 33 percent from just over 1 GW in 2014 to 1.3 GW in 2015. Much of these renewable energy capacity additions have been distributed solar installations supported by the state’s Solar Carve-Out II Program.

The report, prepared for MassCEC by BW Research Partnership, also found the state leading the U.S. for per-capita early-stage clean energy venture investment, followed by California. Early-stage investment in Massachusetts reached $78 million in 2015, a 337 percent increase from $18 million in 2014. Overall, public and private investment in the industry exceeded $658 million.

MassCEC mentioned with the release of its report that, in August, Gov. Charlie Baker signed bipartisan comprehensive energy diversification legislation that promotes the administration’s commitment to reducing energy costs while strengthening the state’s clean energy economy and progressing towards Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements. The legislation pertains to hydropower and offshore wind, requiring utilities to competitively solicit and contract for approximately 1.2 GW of clean hydropower and approximately 1.6 GW of offshore wind. The bipartisan legislation authorizes the use of energy storage technologies paired with renewable power generation as well.

“The Commonwealth’s highly educated and well-trained workforce makes it an attractive place for innovative industries, including clean energy companies,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Massachusetts’ recently passed comprehensive energy diversification legislation will continue to build on the recent success of the clean energy industry by increasing opportunities for growth and advancement.”

Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary Matthew Beaton stated, “The continued strength of Massachusetts’ clean energy industry continues to bring innovation, energy savings and environmental benefits to communities across the state.” He added, “The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to work with our partners in the clean energy industry to reduce costs to ratepayers, usage and emissions as we work to achieve our Global Warming Solutions Act goals.”