Millions of people work to save energy in the United States. In our new multimedia project, People Who Save Energy, we introduce you to the people in this diverse and growing workforce. They work in every state, across industries and technologies. They make, sell, and install efficient products such as ENERGY STAR® appliances, build well-insulated homes, or offer energy-saving services such as weatherization. They are passionate about saving energy.
At least 2.2 million people work some or all of their time on energy-efficient technologies and services, according to a 2017 report for the US Department of Energy. They outnumber the 1.9 million who work to produce electricity (solar, wind, nuclear), coal, oil, and gas. More than half of these jobs occur in construction. In fact, one of every five US construction jobs now deals with products proven to save energy.
Other jobs are related to energy efficiency, too. The DOE reports another 0.7 million jobs that focus on vehicle fuel economy and alternative fuel vehicles and three million jobs that sell efficient (and other) appliances and building materials. These numbers don’t include the indirect jobs that result when customers spend or invest the money they save in lower energy bills somewhere else in the economy.
Energy efficiency not only supports millions of US jobs, but attracts billions of dollars in capital each year. It is probably the single most important source of energy we have. The economy has grown by almost 150% since 1980. Powering that growth has been an increase in energy consumption of about 20 quadrillion BTUs. Over that same period, energy efficiency delivered more than 50 quads worth of energy services, far outpacing not just oil but also coal, gas, nuclear power, and all other sources of energy combined. (See our report The Greatest Energy Story You Haven't Heard.)
At the same time, while efficiency employment grabs far fewer headlines than automotive jobs, a recent report by the Department of Energy found that efficiency employs about twice as many people.
Yet people generally don’t think about energy efficiency in the same way they think about other sources of energy or other sectors of the economy. That’s understandable, because energy efficiency is not a commodity like oil, whose price we follow closely, and it’s not a bellwether industry like the auto sector, whose production and employment are key economic indicators. Energy efficiency itself is largely invisible, and its economic impacts are spread throughout the economy, making them hard to see.
Investing in energy efficiency is vital. A key driver of long-term economic growth is productivity: how much we can create with the resources we have at our disposal. At its simplest, energy efficiency is productivity: getting more out the energy we use. Investments in energy efficiency feed the engine of long-term economic growth and the jobs that result from it.
We see the power of this productivity when we do economic modeling of efficiency investments. We use the ACEEE DEEPER model to assess the economic implications of a range of efficiency policies and investments. In talking about the job-creating power of efficiency, most people imagine workers in hard hats installing efficient windows and other equipment. These are important and easy to identify, but our modeling consistently shows that for every job installing energy efficiency measures, the energy these measures save creates between one and three more.
Investments in energy efficiency not only create jobs on their own but they also free up resources to invest and create jobs elsewhere in the economy. This is the power of energy efficiency. It helps us do more with less, creating a faster growing, more stable economy and the dynamic job growth that comes with it.