California's Advanced Energy Industry Has More Than Half a Million Workers, Up 18% from Last Year

Employment in California’s advanced energy industry grew 18 percent last year, six times the rate of statewide employment growth. More than half a million California workers spend some or all of their time on advanced energy work, including energy efficiency, advanced electricity generation, biofuels, advanced grid technology, and advanced vehicles. Employers engaged in advanced energy business also expect to increase their workforce by 8 percent this year.
At just over 500,000 workers, advanced energy employs three times as many Californians as the motion picture, TV, and radio industry (145,000); more than agriculture, forestry, and fishing (475,000); and approaching construction (750,000). With one in every five advanced energy workers nationwide, California has the largest advanced energy industry by employment of any state in the country. 
These are some of the results of a new jobs report released by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. 
The AEE Institute survey of more than 800 businesses doing business in California is the second study of advanced energy employment in the state conducted by BW Research Partnership, a leading workforce and economic development research firm. The first survey, published in December 2014, found 431,000 advanced energy workers in California, with employers predicting they would add workers at a 17 percent rate in the coming year, bringing the total to more than 500,000 – a prediction that came true, according to the new survey, which asked businesses about employment levels in 2015. 
“California is the nation’s leader in advanced energy policy and that leadership is paying off in jobs for Californians,” said Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a national business association with many member companies in California, and the AEE Institute, its affiliated nonprofit educational organization. “Advanced energy jobs have grown at a much faster rate than jobs overall, and employers expect that to continue. That’s good news for advanced energy companies and for the California economy.”
Advanced Energy Jobs in California is available at
Findings of this 2016 California employment survey conducted by BW Research include:
  • Advanced energy employed an estimated 508,000 Californians in 2015 – an increase of 18 percent over 2014, which is six times the rate of overall state job growth of 3 percent.
  • Workers engaged in advanced energy make up 3 percent of the state workforce overall, up from 2.5 percent in 2014.
  • Employers surveyed expect to add jobs at an 8 percent rate this year, which would bring advanced energy employment to nearly 550,000.
  • By far the largest share of advanced energy jobs is in energy efficiency – 63 percent, or roughly 320,000 workers. But this share is down from 74 percent in 2014, as some smaller segments of advanced energy employment have grown faster.
  • Employment grew fastest in the Advanced Grid segment, which includes smart grid, storage, and electric vehicle charging technologies. The Advanced Grid workforce more than doubled between 2014 and 2015, adding over 11,000 new jobs.
  • The greatest increase in number of jobs came in Advanced Generation, with solar accounting for nearly 80 percent of jobs in this segment. Advanced Generation employment grew 50 percent over 2014, creating almost 48,000 new jobs in the state. Advanced Transportation, which includes hybrid, electric, and natural gas vehicles, also saw impressive growth, adding just under 7,000 new workers to payrolls, 65 percent more than in 2014.
  • The only advanced energy segment that lost jobs was Advanced Fuels, including biofuels and biomass, which were both impacted by low oil and gasoline prices. Advanced Fuel employment fell more than 50 percent last year, resulting in a loss of about 8,000 jobs.
  • California’s advanced energy workforce is quite diverse. Although predominantly male (74 percent), advanced energy workers are 38 percent racial or ethnic minorities, with the minority share of last year’s hires slightly higher (39 percent).
  • California has nearly 43,000 companies engaged in advanced energy as part or all of their business activity.
  • California’s advanced energy industry is primarily composed of small businesses, but there is a shift toward larger establishments as the industry matures. Three-quarters of advanced energy businesses employ 24 permanent employees or less, but that is down from 81 percent last year. Firms that employ between 25 and 49 employees have grown from 6 percent of the industry in 2014 to 9 percent in 2015. The share of medium to large firms (those that employ between 25 to 249 workers) has also grown, from 13 percent to 22 percent.
  • These companies are increasingly relying on advanced energy business as their primary source of revenue. In 2014, four in 10 firms derived all of their revenue from advanced energy activity; this has increased to almost half of the state’s advanced energy firms today.
“With triple the job growth rate of any other sector in our state, clean energy is a major source of job creation in California,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León(D-Los Angeles). “This report shows that policy supporting clean energy is not just good for California’s environment and air but also good for our economy.”
“California continues to lead the nation in energy and climate policy,” said Chair of the California Air Resources Board Mary Nichols, “and this report makes it clear that the advanced energy industry in California is flourishing in response. Our actions and policies to fight climate change are cleaning the air and generating tens of thousands of new businesses and jobs.”
Advanced Energy Economy (AEE)