Energy Jobs Outlook
Associations of energy companies are great sources of information about the energy industry and the job opportunities available in that industry. As the following briefings indicate, the jobs outlook in energy is good, and is likely to remain so.
ENERGY BRIEFING: AMERICAN GAS ASSOCIATION
Natural gas utilities represent a significant and growing portion of the energy sector of the United States economy. Today, natural gas meets almost one-fourth of our energy needs. There are more than 72 million residential, commercial, and industrial natural gas customers in the United States. Of those, 94 percent – more than 68 million customers – receive their gas from members of the American Gas Association www.aga.org. The natural gas industry supports the employment of nearly 3 million Americans in all 50 states.
AGA, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local natural gas utilities. Those companies support a wide variety of employment opportunities, including jobs in engineering, construction, and maintenance of pipelines and infrastructure; measurement and regulation; pipeline, worker, and public safety management; environmental review; and customer service. The utilities also seek professionals for support and administrative functions, including call-center work, accounting, information technology, management, public relations, marketing, human resources, and community outreach. They also require specialists who can take on leadership positions in the industry. Specifically, there is a great need for mechanical, petroleum, and chemical engineers, engineering technicians, process engineers, operations managers and supervisors, HVAC specialists, mechanics, welders, and pipefitters.
The industry’s need for experienced workers will continue to increase due to projected growth in demand for natural gas and the prospect of worker retirements – as well as a need to meet 21st century challenges such as cybersecurity-risk management.
The extensive military training, strong work ethic, and leadership skills of veterans make them highly desirable employees for energy companies. Utilities throughout the nation partner with veteran and labor organizations, participate in and sponsor career fairs and other employment events, and work with veteran-focused agencies and hiring firms to publicize job openings. In 2006, AGA formed the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) with the Nuclear Energy Institute, Edison Electric Institute, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The CEWD Troops to Energy Jobs program www.troopstoenergyjobs.com accelerates the training and employability of veterans for key energy positions, and provides a roadmap for veterans seeking to enter the industry.
ENERGY BRIEFING: AMERICAN WIND ENERGY ASSOCIATION
The American Wind Energy Association www.awea.org is the national trade association for the wind industry. The industry is developing more projects than ever before. That means hundreds of manufacturing facilities and many new jobs.
Wind energy companies installed 1,254 megawatts (MW) of capacity during the first three quarters of 2014, more than during all of 2013. Those installations raised the total capacity to 62,300 MW, and the number of wind turbines to more than 46,000.
There were over 13,600 MW under construction – over 7,600 MW in Texas. Construction in other states: 1,170 MW in Oklahoma, 1,050 MW in Iowa, 780 MW in North Dakota, and 670 MW in Kansas. Corporate purchasers continue to invest in wind energy. Yahoo! and Walmart recently signed power purchase agreements for projects in Kansas and Texas respectively, joining investments from Google, Microsoft, and IKEA.
In 2012, wind-energy companies invested $25 billion in new projects in the United States. The wind industry employs 80,000 people in the United States across construction, development, engineering, and operations. There are about 550 manufacturing facilities.
ENERGY BRIEFING: GEOTHERMAL ENERGY ASSOCIATION
The Geothermal Energy Association www.geo-energy.org is a trade association composed of U.S. companies that support the expanded use of geothermal energy for electric-power generation and direct heating. Geothermal energy is heat from the earth. Areas with telltale signs such as hot springs are the most obvious sources of easily usable geothermal energy, but the heat of the earth is available everywhere and is essentially limitless.
Geothermal provides long-term income for people with a diversity of job skills. People directly employed by the sector include welders, mechanics, pipe fitters, plumbers, machinists, electricians, carpenters, construction and drilling equipment operators, excavators, surveyors, architects and designers, geologists, hydrologists, engineers, HVAC technicians, aquaculture and horticulture specialists, resort managers, spa developers, researchers, and government employees.
ENERGY BRIEFING: NATIONAL HYDROPOWER ASSOCIATION
The National Hydropower Association www.hydro.org represents more than 180 companies, including both public and investor-owned utilities, independent power producers, developers, manufacturers, environmental and engineering consultants, attorneys, and public policy, outreach, and education professionals. NHA members are involved in projects throughout the U.S. hydropower industry, including both federal and non-federal hydroelectric facilities. NHA members own and operate most of the non-federal waterpower generating facilities in the United States.
Hydropower is keeping the lights on in every region of the country. It accounts for 52 percent of all renewable energy generation in the United States. The U.S. hydropower industry currently employs about 300,000 workers, from project development to manufacturing to facilities operations and maintenance. America’s hydropower industry has the potential to create 1.4 million cumulative jobs by 2025, putting Americans to work building a 21st century clean-energy infrastructure.
ENERGY BRIEFING: NATIONAL MINING ASSOCIATION
Each year, on average, every American uses approximately 3.4 tons of coal and nearly 40,000 pounds of other newly mined materials. With nearly 60 percent of all U.S. electric power generated from coal and uranium, and nearly every manufactured good containing some mineral component, mining remains a vital industry.
The National Mining Association www.nma.org was created in 1995 through the merger of the National Coal Association (NCA) and the American Mining Congress (AMC). These two organizations have represented the mining industry since 1897 (AMC) and 1917 (NCA). NMA has a membership of more than 300 corporations and other organizations involved in various aspects of mining.
U.S. mining supports nearly two million jobs and generates annual revenues in excess of $100 billion. Over the next 5 to 10 years, mining operations will need approximately 55,000 new employees to meet demand and to replace retiring employees.
ENERGY BRIEFING: NUCLEAR ENERGY INSTITUTE
There are two types of companies in the nuclear energy industry: (1) utilities, which operate nuclear power plants that generate electricity, and (2) suppliers, which manufacture and distribute products to, and perform services for, the utilities.
Members of the Nuclear Energy Institute www.nei.org, include all of the nuclear utilities and the large suppliers, along with universities, community colleges, and national laboratories.
The industry supports more than 100,000 American jobs – the utilities alone employ 62,000 people. About 13 percent of all utility workers and 11 percent of the employees of nuclear suppliers are veterans.
Five new nuclear facilities are under construction in the United States, and 38 percent of the nuclear work force is eligible for retirement between 2013 and 2018, so the demand for trained employees is stable. To maintain the current work force to fulfill its needs, the industry must hire approximately 20,000 workers by 2018.
The industry typically has no shortage of applicants because it provides great pay and benefits. However, it struggles to find individuals qualified to fill technical positions – engineers, operators, maintenance personnel, and technicians. All types of engineers, community college graduates with degrees in nuclear technology, nuclear mechanic apprentices, and United States Navy nuclear personnel have the specialized training to fill those vacancies. Non-technical employees include accountants, educators, and attorneys.
Navy nuclear personnel can easily transition into engineering, maintenance, operator, or technician positions at the power plants. And the industry is finding more veterans from all branches of the service available to fill the growing need for cybersecurity personnel. Veterans have also been very successful in the industry’s high-tech security forces that protect these assets 24/7/365.
In 2012, the nuclear energy industry signed a first-of-a-kind agreement with the Navy, allowing Navy veterans the option of being put in contact with industry recruiters to help them transition to civilian careers. Sixty percent of all separating U.S. Navy nuclear officers opted to participate, and every one of them was contacted by more than 20 Fortune 500 nuclear companies.
ENERGY BRIEFING: SOLAR FOUNDATION
In January 2015, The Solar Foundation www.thesolarfoundation.org recently released the National Solar Jobs Census 2014. The census found that the solar industry added workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy and accounted for 1.3 percent of all jobs created in the U.S. over the past year. The foundation’s research shows that solar industry employment has grown by 86 percent in the past five years, resulting in nearly 80,000 jobs.
As of November 2014, the solar industry employed 173,807 solar workers, representing a growth rate of 21.8 percent since November 2013. Over the next 12 months, employers expected to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 20.9 percent to 210,060 workers.
Wages paid by solar firms are competitive, with the average solar installer earning between $20 and $25 per hour. Production and assembly workers average $16 to $19 per hour.
ENERGY BRIEFING: SOLAR INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION
The Solar Energy Industries Association www.seia.org, founded in 1974, has about 1,000 member companies. Solar energy posted another banner year in the United States in 2014. Photovoltaic installations – power-generating systems that use photovoltaic (PV) cells, also known as solar cells – continued to gain. Companies installed 6,201 megawatts (MW) of capacity, up 30 percent over 2013 and more than 12 times the amount installed five years earlier. Over 600,000 homes and businesses now have on-site solar; nearly 200,000 of these installations were completed in 2014. Six states are home to more than 500 MW each of solar capacity.
Companies also install 767 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, which use mirrors to concentrate sunlight, producing heat that is used to generate electric power. Total installed capacity of PV and CSP systems reached 20 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, enough to power 4 million American homes. In 2014, 32 percent of new electric generating capacity came from solar, and the industry now employs nearly 175,000 workers.