A new study using proprietary data from 2019 and 2020 found that jobs in the renewable energy sector paid 25% more than the national median. The national median pay rate is $19.14 per hour, but in the clean energy (renewable energy) sector, that rate swells to $23.87 per hour. In comparison to the median wage of fossil fuel workers, clean energy jobs are still ahead, making 43 cents more per hour than their fossil fuel peers. The study, conducted by BW Research and funded by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), and Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI), definitively prove that green jobs are better for the planet and better for your wallet.
What is a clean energy job?
“Most clean energy jobs are well-known occupations found across a variety of value chain activities including manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, and professional services” states BW Research’s report, “many clean energy occupational titles are not new, previously non-existent positions. Most clean energy projects require the work of skilled tradespeople such as electricians, HVAC technicians, mechanics, welders, and assemblers and fabricators.” These careers range from sales of solar panels to efficient light system installers to electric vehicle part manufacturers. In short, most of the workers employed in the clean energy sector don’t have the energy-specific titles you might be expecting. They can be plumbers or IT professionals, but no matter their title, they still make an average of 25% more per hour over the national median.
At the state level, clean energy jobs earn a higher wage than the majority of a state’s median wages. In California, clean energy workers made 29.2% more than the state median wage; in Texas, they made 27.6% more, and in Louisiana, they earned 24.9% more. In fact, in 25 states, the median clean energy wage is more than $20 per hour. The highest paying states in terms of clean energy wages are Massachusetts (median $29.84 per hour), District of Columbia ($27.56), and California ($27.49), but the real surprise is Alaska, where clean energy workers earn a median wage of $25.75 per hour. From 2017-2019 and beyond, the clean energy sector is growing at a higher rate than any other energy sector. According to an E2 report, clean energy is one of the fastest-growing industry sectors in the United States, employing over 3.4 million people across 99% of U.S. counties.
Within the clean energy sector, the highest-paying areas in 2019 were wind ($25.95 per hour median), grid modernization ($25.40 per hour median), and renewable heating and cooling ($24.91 per hour median). With few exceptions, unionization rates for clean energy jobs were 3% higher (9%) than the national rate of 6%, and in the grid modernization sector, that rate is nearly 12% or double the national rate. Beyond unionization, “clean energy jobs are more likely to come with health care and retirement benefits than jobs across the rest of the private sector,” according to the BW research report.
Why do these jobs pay more and come with benefits? BW’s report states, “It is important to note that clean energy jobs are more likely to support higher entry-level wages, often reaching parity at senior levels of experience. This is due to the fact that entry-level clean energy positions usually have higher skill or certification requirements, such as additional safety training or manufacturer-specific certifications. These additional skills and certifications tend to offer wage premiums.” The report includes a detailed analysis of 15 jobs within the clean energy sector in terms of their wage, educational requirements, benefits, and advancement opportunities. This comes at a time when clean energy jobs have consistently grown every year since 2016, and even more employment opportunities open up every day.