Vermont’s clean energy economy continues to grow and create good jobs for Vermonters, according to a report released Monday, Sept. 14, by Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Department of Public Service (DPS). At Building Energy, the governor was joined by Vermonters employed by the clean energy sector to outline results of the “2015 Vermont Clean Energy Industry Report,” which shows that the sector grew by 6.2 percent last year and now supports 16,231 jobs.
“This report shows what we know to be true: moving to a new energy future is not just the right thing to do for our planet, it’s the right thing to do for our economy,” Gov. Shumlin said. “Over 16,200 Vermont jobs are now supported by this thriving sector of our economy. Its continued growth will help pave the way for economic opportunities for Vermonters and a planet that is livable for future generations.”
The report shows that clean energy is a significant and growing part of Vermont’s economy. In addition to providing jobs for over 16,200 Vermonters, the sector comprises 2,519 business establishments. Around 5 percent of all Vermont employees participated in the clean energy economy, up from 4.3 percent last year.
While efficiency is the largest segment of Vermont’s clean energy sector, employing 49 percent of the sector’s workforce, renewable energy jobs expanded the most, growing by 12.4 percent in the last year – an addition of 565 jobs. Solar is the fastest growing of all renewable energy companies; the sub-sector increased by 21.8 percent to 1,889 employees, or 37 percent of all renewable energy workers.
The report also indicates optimism about future growth of the clean energy sector, with respondents projecting the addition of about 1,000 jobs in the next six months. Compared to other nearby states, Vermont is winning the race for clean energy jobs. A similar report recently released by Rhode Island showed that despite having 40 percent more people than Vermont, Rhode Island has only 60 percent of the number of clean jobs that Vermont has.
The increase in clean energy jobs comes at the same time as electric rates continue to decline in Vermont. Last month, Green Mountain Power announced the second straight rate decrease for customers.
Vermont has put an emphasis on implementing policies to advance the build out of renewable energy since Gov. Shumlin came to office. In 2011, Vermont completed a comprehensive energy plan that included the goal of reaching 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. Four years later, the state is making progress towards that goal. Vermont now has more than 10 times the amount of solar installed or permitted than it did in 2011. The state has more than doubled its standard offer program, expanded net metering more than sevenfold, and helped bring down the cost of solar from 30 cents per kilowatt hour in 2010 to less than 12 cents today. And today there are 119 megawatts of wind generation installed, and another 30 megawatts on the way, compared to just 6 megawatts in 2011.
To build on that progress, Gov. Shumlin signed into law a comprehensive energy bill in June that will create 1,000 new jobs (above and beyond those identified in this report and projected for next year), save Vermonters $390 million on energy costs, help Vermont combat climate change, and put the state on track to achieve a quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The legislation also creates an innovative new program under which Vermont utilities will help customers reduce fossil fuel use and save money on their energy bills.
Commenting on the report, Public Service Department (PSD) Commissioner Christopher Recchia said, “I’m pleased to see a thriving clean energy industry with many businesses employing so many Vermonters. The growth in clean energy jobs is contributing significantly towards the overall growth of the Vermont economy. Vermont’s clean energy entrepreneurs serve us well by creating jobs and helping us meet our goal of obtaining 90 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2050.”
The PSD’s Clean Energy Development Fund commissioned BW Research Inc. to conduct the survey. The research team made more than 8,100 telephone calls and sent over 750 emails to employers, yielding 974 survey responses with an overall combined margin of error for employment questions of approximately +/-2.82 percent to 4.71 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval. Telephone surveys were administered by Castleton Polling Group in Rutland. The clean energy sector was defined to include many different types of clean energy goods and services including energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean transportation, greenhouse gas management and accounting, and support services.