California Has Largest Advanced Energy Industry In U.S.

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

California is home to the largest advanced energy industry in the country, according to the first-ever industry-wide survey released by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. At 431,800 jobs, advanced energy is bigger by employment in California than the motion picture, television, and radio industries; mining and quarrying; semiconductors; and aerospace. Advanced energy jobs grew 5 percent in the past year—more than double the overall state job growth rate—and is on track to grow 17 percent in the coming year, to more than 500,000 workers, based on employer hiring plans.

While California is widely recognized as a national leader in energy policy, jobs directly related to the industry have not been quantified until now. The survey of more than 2,000 businesses, conducted by BW Research Partnership, a workforce and economic development research firm, found that, among the 10 states that have studied these industries, California has the largest advanced energy workforce in the country. It is also second in the country, tied with Massachusetts, for percentage of the state’s overall workforce employed in advanced energy, at 2.4 percent; only Vermont, at 4.3 percent, has a higher concentration of workers in this broad economic sector.

“California is the nation’s leader in advanced energy policy, that much we already knew,” said Graham Richard, CEO of AEE and the AEE Institute. “Now we also know that California is on the way to half a million people employed in the advanced energy industry by next year. Advanced energy companies are not only making California’s energy system better and cleaner. They are also creating jobs and contributing toward economic prosperity for the state.”

The full California Advanced Energy Survey is available at

Findings of the survey include the following:

  • California is home to 43,700 businesses serving advanced energy markets.
  • About half of all advanced energy-related companies surveyed expect to add employees during the coming year, for more than 70,000 new jobs, pushing advanced energy employment past a half-million jobs in 2015.

“California is an acknowledged leader nationally in energy and climate policy,” said Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board. “Now it can be said with certainty that we are a national leader in advanced energy businesses and employment as well.”

Overall, building energy efficiency is the largest segment of the advanced energy industry, supported by California’s policy commitment to energy conservation, advanced building codes and energy efficiency incentives. More than 300,000 Californians are employed making buildings, homes and businesses more energy efficient.

“California’s leadership on energy efficiency has spurred innovation across the state and has enabled companies to flourish,” said Alex Laskey, President of Opower. “There is a huge and growing opportunity in California for energy efficiency to have a positive impact on the environment, on households savings, and on job creation.”

The survey also showed that advanced electricity generation technologies, including wind and solar power, are major components of the advanced energy economy in California. Nearly 73,000 people are employed in the solar industry in California, full or part-time. Growth over the past 12 months has been particularly dramatic, with workers spending more than half their time on solar up 16 percent from last year.

“For nearly 30 years, SunPower has been proud to call California our home, while developing innovative clean energy technologies and creating California jobs and economic opportunity,” said Howard Wenger, president of business units for SunPower, a global provider of solar technology and energy services. “The future of the advanced energy industry in California is bright, and we look forward to continuing our work providing clean and affordable energy solutions.”

Though employment totals are smaller, advanced grid technologies, especially electric vehicle and energy storage, have also established footholds in the California economy.

“Electric vehicle adoption in California is well ahead of the rest of the country,” said Thomas Ashley, Director, Utility & Regulatory Affairs, PlugShare. “That makes California an ideal place to provide app-based electric vehicle services and smart charging programs to integrate electric vehicles and the electricity grid. Our company is growing and sees significant potential.”