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How is green energy driving business growth?

        Science | Green Science

Green Energy Jobs
Solar power is quickly becoming a mainstream energy source.
Solar power is quickly becoming a mainstream energy source.
©iStockphoto.com/diego_cervo

A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that green jobs in the U.S. grew 9.1 percent from 1998 to 2007, while job growth in the economy as a whole only grew 3.7 percent over that same period [source: Galbraith]. And that was before the economic collapse sent investors flocking to green energy. Green jobs, including green energy jobs, are now being listed among the fastest-growing careers of the next decade.

The only question is: What exactly is a green job? Luckily, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is on the case. The BLS received funding in 2010 to begin tracking the growth of the green jobs sector, but to do so it had to come up with a clear definition. According to the BLS, your job qualifies as "green" if you work for a company that directly supplies environmentally friendly products and services (like a solar panel manufacturer) or a company that consciously institutes environmentally friendly practices (like powering its assembly line with rooftop solar panels). The BLS is sending out employer surveys to further determine which job titles are most closely related to the green aspects of the business. For example, does the janitor who cleans the factory with the rooftop solar panels count as a green job? Probably not.

Another upshot of investing in green energy is that the green energy sector is much more labor intensive than fossil fuel energy. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that for every $1 million invested in green energy, an average of 17 new jobs are created on average, while the same investment in fossil fuel energy only creates five jobs [source: Durning].

One concern to green energy investors is whether there are enough qualified American workers to respond to the imminent demand for solar panel installers, wind turbine welders, and every flavor of engineer. The Green Jobs Act of 2007 authorized $125 million a year to create something called the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program. The actual funding for the program didn't arrive until 2009, when $500 million of stimulus fund money was earmarked for training the American workforce for the impending green economy. In recent years, the Department of Labor and the Department of Energy have used the funding to create programs like the Energy Training Partnership Grants, the Pathways Out of Poverty program, and the Solar Instructor Training Network, all of which give lower-income workers the job skills to thrive in the green workforce.

For lots more information about green energy, alternative fuels and clean technology, head to the links on the next page.