NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 21, 2012

Mass. clean-energy sector now accounts for 1.7 percent of jobs

By Michael Norton
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON — Massachusetts clean energy and energy-efficiency companies added more than 7,000 jobs over the one-year period ending in July 2012, according to a report commissioned by a state agency dedicated to growing the industry.

According to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the sector now employs 71,523 people at 4,995 clean-energy companies, with jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering, sales, and research and development. A 2011 report found 4,908 clean energy firms employing 64,310 workers. Most workers are in energy-efficiency businesses and nearly two-thirds of clean energy employers in Massachusetts have 10 or fewer permanent employees.

While job growth in the industry outpaced the rest of the economy by nearly 10 times, the sector is still relatively small, accounting for only 1.7 percent of the state’s workforce. However, the report projects its growth rate over the next 12 months at 12.4 percent and the addition of “thousands of jobs in the coming decades.”

Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature in recent years have deployed a range of policy and fiscal stimuli to grow the industry, citing environmental and economic benefits and the potential to make Massachusetts a hub of a growing industry worldwide. The center itself was created in 2008 as part of the Green Jobs Act and policymakers have propelled the industry by passing the sweeping Green Communities Act and the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Jobs in the clean-energy sector are spread throughout Massachusetts, according to the report, with the highest concentration seen in the Boston area and the northeast region of the state. Clean-energy jobs in the southeastern region of the state declined by 252, or 1.6 percent, the report said.

According to the report, Massachusetts ranks first in the nation in per capita private clean-energy investments and received $62.8 million in federal funds through a program to aid advanced energy research projects.

Patrick administration officials last week were unable to estimate total state government investments in clean energy; the clean-energy center alone reported making $79 million in public and private sector awards since 2010 to support energy efficiency, clean tech startups, residential solar-energy programs and a wind technology testing facility.

The report suggests the state can “do more” and could provide “targeted help for small businesses” to spur residential and commercial clean-energy installations, which reported a 12 percent decline in employment. It also calls for expanding baccalaureate programs at public universities and for more instruction in the science, technology, engineering and math fields and in clean-energy careers at the kindergarten through grade 12 level.

A bill signed by Patrick earlier this month addressing energy costs included incentives for more clean-energy installations, including a provision that would allow more owner-produced electricity to be sold back to the grid.

“This report is proof that Massachusetts’ innovation economy is succeeding,” Clean Energy Center Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Alicia Barton McDevitt, who began her term this week, said in a statement.

The report identifies a clean-energy firm as an employer engaged in providing goods and services related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative transportation and carbon management and clean-energy workers are defined as “spending at least a portion of their time supporting the clean-energy aspects of their businesses.”

The report was prepared by BW Research Partnership at a cost of $50,000. According to the report, researchers over two years attempted 45,000 phone calls and sent more than 10,000 emails to employers. Researchers obtained 1,401 survey responses in 2011 and 930 more this year.

The report was released as state officials announced July jobs numbers. While employers reported adding 1,600 jobs last month, the unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent from 6 percent.