The state government of Washington recognizes that growing a clean-energy future is of central importance to Washington’s broader economic development strategy which includes attracting, retaining, and supporting growth among green-economy employers. This effort must span from basic research and development and the commercialization of new technologies, to new business startups and the expansion of businesses that provide products and services. Growing the state’s green economy is viewed as central to generating new, good-paying jobs for Washington citizens. The current total estimate for Washington is 99,319 private- and public-sector green jobs. This total number includes both full-time and part-time employment in green jobs.
The Pew Charitable Trusts “Clean Energy Economy Report“ found that in 2007 Washington reported 2,008 cleantech businesses. Over the two year period (2006-2008) Washington saw around $635 million of venture capital invested in its cleantech sector.
The number of green jobs in the state has grown significantly since then. More recent comprehensive statewide surveys completed in 2008 and then again in 2009 found that the number of private-sector green jobs was substantially higher. The 2008 survey results found that the state had 47,194 green jobs and just one year later this number had increased by 32.4% adding another 15,100 green jobs to this total. Almost half of this increase was due to the expanded number of industries and
firms included in the survey.
The study concluded that overall findings suggest that the number of green jobs identified by employers is growing, and that green jobs exist in some form in virtually all industries across the state, although concentrations vary. Most of the growth appears to be in existing occupations, and the majority of employers continue to use traditional job titles to describe green jobs.
Green Building Jobs and Energy Efficiency Jobs in Washington
According to the 2008 Washington Green Jobs Report energy efficiency jobs accounts for over half of all green jobs in the state . Construction-related industries and occupations account for 70% of employment in the energy efficiency sector, followed by professional and technical services such as architecture and engineering.
The state’s energy efficiency related jobs accounted for nearly 53% of all employment in green jobs, employing 24,976 people in 2008 (based on the survey’s results). This area also has the smallest proportion of part-time employment among the four green core areas, at just 7%. In a followup survey done in 2009, found that the construction industry had more green jobs than any other sector of the state’s economy, with 29,410 or 38.6% of the total number of green jobs in the state. These jobs were primarily in the core area of “increasing energy efficiency.”
In addition Seattle is one of the top cities in the nation for LEED facilities and the City of Seattle is one of the largest single owners of LEED facilities in the world. The City of Seattle currently has 32 projects—either completed, under construction, or planned—that are targeted for LEED certification. In addition to public buildings green building has taken off in the region and many private development projects now have adopted green building standards recognizing that doing so gives them an edge in a tight market. As a result the region has gained recognition as one of the nations green building centers.
Non-Hydro Renewable Energy Jobs in Washington
According to the 2009 green jobs survey by the state government, renewables represent a fast-growing energy sector that has great potential
for new business growth and employment in Washington. In 2009 there were some 3,464 renewable energy jobs in the state up around 4.3% from the year earlier. The largest numbers of jobs are in managerial, professional, and technical occupations that would likely be associated with the planning, design, and construction of renewable energy equipment and facilities. Technical occupations such as electrician, electrical engineer, electrical power line installers, and a number of construction-related occupations comprise a number of the green jobs in renewable energy.
Washington passed a renewable energy standard (RES) through ballot initiative in 2006. The RES requires certain utilities to obtain 15 percent of their 2020 electricity from renewables and invest in energy efficiency.
Washington is currently developing one of the largest solar photovoltaic projects in the world, a 75 MW project that would bring more than 200 construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs. Some of the states solar power companies include: REC-Silicon plant in Moses Lake that produces purified silicon; Solar World in Vancouver, WA that manufactures solar wafers; Outback Power in Wenatchee, WA.
As of 2010 Washington has 2,357 Megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity and is in fifth place in the nation for the amount of installed capacity. It currently gets 4.3% of its electricity from the wind and according to a resource assessment from the National Renewable Energy Lab, Washington’s wind resource could provide 64% of the state’s current electricity needs. Total direct and indirect jobs supported by wind energy in Washington in 2010 range between 1,000-2,000. Washington is home to Katana Summit and TBailey, major wind turbine tower manufacturers, who have manufacturing facilities in Ephrata and Anacortes, respectively. At least 9 facilities in Washington currently manufacture components for the wind energy industry.
Washington has 4 biomass plants. A typical 30 MW bio power plant employs about 120 workers (in plant and outside).
Hydro Power Jobs in Washington
The state of Washington produces most of its electricity via hydroelectric power. In fact, nearly 70% of Washington’s electricity is generated from hydro power. The state also has a lot of untapped run of the river hydro capacity as well as some of the countries best tidal power resources. The national Hydro Power Association estimates that hydro power currently employs 300,000 people and a recent study from Navigant Consulting found that 1.4 million cumulative jobs could be created by hydro power by 2025 if renewable electricity standards become widely adopted across the country — as in fact they seem to be. Based on the state of Washington’s size in the hydro market and in the new hydro potential that translates into around 200,000 new jobs in the state by 2025.
In addition to traditional hydro Washington is also experimenting with run of the river hydro and has significant tidal power resources, especially in the Puget Sound. In Puget Sound there several proposed tidal projects; however many problems remain, including how these proposed projects would affect Salmon migration. Snohomish PUD plans to install two turbines some 220 feet below the surface about a half-mile southwest of Admiralty Head. The PUD is studying how well the turbines perform, the economic feasibility of tidal power and how the turbines might affect the marine environment. A $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energyis covering about two thirds of the project cost.
Smart Grid Jobs in Washington
Washington State and the Pacific Northwest region are lacking key economic incentives to be significant and early investors in smart grid technologies, unlike many other region of the country. In large measure this is due to the abundance of cheap hydro power in the region. Because hydro power can rapidly ramp up and down it also reduces the spread between off-peak and peak load power prices further inhibit investment in smart grid infrastructure. However notwithstanding this lack of investment in local smart grid infrastructure in the state the state enjoys a high regional concentration of software and semiconductor companies that could and in some cases are also driving innovation in the energy and smart grid sectors. The Pacific Northwest has the assets to become a global center in smart energy.
The local companies that are either already leading in the smart grid right now or are in the process of developing their own smart grid strategies in order to participate in this rapidly growing global market range from software giant Microsoft that is working with utilities and other companies in order to develop software solutions for grid management and sensing to small and nimble startups that are beginning to pop up in the region. Some of the better known smart grid companies in the state are: Intron based Liberty Lake, WA that is world’s largest smart meter maker and has 9,000 employees; Areva T&D, based in Redmond with an estimated 250-500 employees and active in the power grid automation space; Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, a maker of solid-state power controls and generator and transmission protection systems; and Celerity, a pioneer in building distributed generation networks.
Thus although locally smart grid infrastructure is lagging behind other regions, mostly because of the Pacific Northwest’s unique availability of low cost hydro, the region is becoming a recognized cluster of expertese and manufacturing for the global smart grid market and the employment prospects for the specialized talent that this sector needs looks pretty good in this region.
Environmental Jobs in Washington
In the state’s 2009 comprehensive green jobs survey the agriculture sector was second — to construction — in terms of the number of green jobs that it provided with 12,027 green jobs, most in the core area of “preventing and reducing environmental pollution.” A total of 30,622 people were employed across all sectors fo the state’s economy in jobs related to pollution prevention and reduction. In addition another 8,928 people were employed in providing mitigation or cleanup of existing pollution.
The states forestry sector also offers many green jobs in areas such as tree replanting for example.
The states forestry and agriculture sectors employ many people already in environmental and environmental remediation jobs.