DOE jobs report features data on bioenergy, biofuels employment

By Erin Voegele | January 16, 2017

On Jan. 13, the U.S. Department of Energy released its second annual analysis of how changes in America’s energy profile are affecting national employment in key sectors of the economy. To complete its analysis, the DOE administered a new supplemental survey to more than 30,000 energy sector employers. The resulting report, titled “2017 Energy and Employment Report,” shows a dramatic growth in several key sectors of the U.S. economy in 2016.

“This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy,” said DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster.  “Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016.”

The report includes data on a wide variety of energy and energy efficiency sectors, including biomass power and biofuels.

According to the report, bioenergy electric generation and biofuel sub-technologies employ a total of 112,642 workers. The generation sector is a relatively small component of the overall bioenergy and biofuel workforce, with only 7,980 individuals working exclusively with bioenergy or biomass electric generation technologies.

The DOE’s analysis also shows most employment for bioenergy and biomass generation is encompassed within the construction industry, followed by utilities. Construction accounted for 63.7 percent, with utilities at 18.58 percent, followed by 14.1 percent for professional services and 3.5 percent for manufacturing. According to the report, bioenergy/biomass electric generation technologies employ more women than each of the individual biofuel technologies. In addition, the generation sector is more diverse than each of the component fuels, employing more Hispanic or Latino and Asian individuals.

The report shows corn ethanol fuels employment represents approximately 3 percent of the nation’s fuel workforce, accounting for 28,613 jobs. The sector is primarily comprised of agriculture and wholesale trade. Agriculture accounted for 49 percent of corn ethanol fuels employment, followed by wholesale trade at 31.1 percent, professional services at 11.1 percent, manufacturing at 7.7 percent, other at 0.6 percent and mining at 0.5 percent. About three in 10 workers are women, with one out of 10 Hispanic or Latino. The report shows corn ethanol has a small proportion of Asian, Black or African American workers, but almost a quarter of employees are 55 years of age or older.

The category other ethanol and non-woody biomass fuels, including biodiesel, employs just over 2 percent of the fuels workforce, equating to 23,088 jobs. The report notes that because non-woody biomass represents a small portion of the nation’s fuel source, the majority of employment is concentrated in professional and business services, likely research and development. Professional services accounts for 57.4 percent of employment in the category, with wholesale trade at 29.2 percent, agriculture at 9.2 percent, manufacturing at 3.3 percent, mining at 0.5 percent, and other at 0.4 percent. Almost a third of these workers are women, but there is not very high representation across the ethnic and racial minorities.

Woody biomass fuel for energy and cellulosic biofuels supports 30,458 jobs, or approximately 3 percent of the fuels workforce. Agriculture accounts for 55.6 percent of these jobs, followed by professional services at 38.8 percent, wholesale trade at 4.3 percent, manufacturing at 1.2 percent and other at 0.2 percent. The workforce is not very diverse, with only 6 percent of the workforce reported to be Hispanic or Latino, 4 percent Asian and 3 percent Black or African American.

The category of other biofuels includes early-stage research and development and encompasses algal biofuel, syngas, bioheat blends, landfill gas and advanced biofuels. Together these subtechnologies employ 22,504 workers. Professional services accounts for 91.5 percent of these jobs, with wholesale trade at 7.8 percent, manufacturing at 0.5 percent and other at 0.2 percent.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the DOE website.