The 4th annual Vermont Clean Energy Industry Report (VCEIR) released by the Department of Public Service underscores the importance of Vermont’s climate economy as a “promising source of economic growth and employment opportunity.”
Overall, the clean energy sector saw a 7.7% increase in employment over the last year and a 29% increase from the 2013 baseline, equating to over 19,080 jobs in the Green Mountain State.
“With one of every 16 Vermonter’s employment connected with our burgeoning climate economy, renewable energy, efficiency, and clean transportation help local communities prosper with good paying jobs and energy cost savings,” said Olivia Campbell Andersen, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont. “Last year 1,366 more Vermonters joined the ranks of the hard working, clean energy innovators grateful to help their neighbors, schools, and fellow businesses affordably achieve energy independence.”
Earlier this year, the Union of Concerned Scientist ranked Vermont as second in the Nation for Clean Energy Momentum. Most, if not all, indicators in the VCEIR point to a strong, resilient, and expanding Vermont climate economy which will hold that momentum. However, the VCEIR does indicate steps policy makers may take if this sector’s promising economic growth and employment opportunities are to be fully realized.
In 2016, increases in electric vehicle range due to advances in battery capacity, decreases in price, and the expansion of charging infrastructure prompted electric car sales increased by 60% globally. This trend was reflected by Vermont’s clean transportation sector which saw the largest gains of all clean energy subcategories, with 37% employment growth over the last 12 months, equating to 357 additional Vermont jobs.
“Electrifying the way we travel and relying on local renewable energy will help our economy grow,” continued Campbell Andersen. “With the right leadership, Vermont can capitalize on this opportunity to create jobs while transforming our transportation sector.”
Clean transmission technologies, which include storage, smart grid, and microgrid technologies put 914 Vermonters to work with greater expected growth to come. The passage of Act 52 during the recent legislative session expands Vermont’s storage capabilities and makes room for home-spun grid innovations.
“Energy storage is a game changer, offering greater resiliency, efficiency, and lower rates in the near future,” said Representative Laura Sibilia of Dover who championed the State evaluating opportunities for energy storage during the 2017 legislative session. “Other states have already moved forward in advancing energy storage deployment. With several local companies manufacturing these advanced technologies here in Vermont, we are poised to capitalize on this global economic opportunity.”
Not all the news in the VCEIR was good news, however. Woody and non-woody biomass fuels saw decreases in job numbers, losing 270 and 160 jobs respectively. A bill active in the Vermont legislature sponsored by Representative Bob Helm of Rutland seeks to aid this sector with an exemption for highly efficient indoor commercial and residential biomass boilers from sales and use tax.
“We need to be doing all that we can to lower heating costs and maintain our forestry and biomass jobs here in Vermont,” said Dave Frank of SunWood Biomass. “I am looking forward to seeing our state leaders progressing legislation that will allow more Vermonters to heat local when they reconvene in January.”
While hiring became less difficult in 2016, it still remains a challenge with three-quarters of employers reporting difficulty hiring qualified workers. Looking forward, legislative leaders could see a strong return on investment from workforce development efforts in the clean energy trades.
“There is a general consensus that we need to keep and attract young workers by providing them with the training they need to grow in well-paying trade jobs,” said Jeff Forward, Chair of Renewable Energy Vermont’s board. “The State’s economic efforts should focus on training and apprentice opportunities for the local clean energy businesses that are already looking for skilled workers.”
Visit Renewable Energy Vermont’s website at www.revermont.org/resources/jobs/ for a listing of open clean energy jobs.
For the full 2017 Vermont Clean Energy Industry Report from the Department of Public Service see http://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/recent-announcements
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