November 21, 2023 | Michael Kenney, Senior Program Manager
A recent report on the state of energy efficiency jobs in America found that the industry continues to grow at a rapid pace. And the Southwest region is no exception.
The global pandemic resulted in a major downturn for the clean energy industry, but many states are seeing employment return to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, energy efficiency is the largest energy sector employer in Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. New Mexico and Nevada were noted as two of the top five states for year-over-year growth in energy efficiency jobs. Overall, energy efficiency jobs grew by almost 4% from 2021 to 2022.
Arizona leads the region overall in energy efficiency jobs with over 42,000 employed while Colorado leads the way for workers in energy efficiency professional services. Colorado’s continued strength in the energy efficiency professional service arena reflects the work by its major electric and gas utility, Xcel Energy. Xcel found itself in the top 10 utilities nationwide as ranked by ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) for energy efficiency performance, programs, and customer engagement. Further supporting strong job growth in the state, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission pushed forward aggressive energy efficiency and beneficial electrification program goals for the utility.
New Mexico’s place as a state with high energy efficiency job growth reflects its recent work on energy efficiency programs and policies. Since 2021, the investor-owned utilities in the state have been acting under increased energy savings goals and budgets. In addition, New Mexico is launching a statewide energy efficiency grant program and has implemented a state tax credit for efficient equipment purchases, both of which have the potential to generate more jobs around the state. The growth is unlikely to slow as the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission considers how best to continue energy savings goals and budgets out to 2030.
While the news of job growth is great for the region, diversity remains an issue. The industry nationwide, and here in the Southwest, needs to do better at prioritizing the training and support that enables women and minority workers to access energy efficiency employment. However, the industry remains a strong source of veteran employment. Over 8% of the region’s energy efficiency jobs are held by veterans.
The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is encouraged by the continued investment in energy efficiency in the southwestern United States and expects the additional workforce funding and incentive dollars from the federal Inflation Reduction Act to bring even more job opportunities in the coming months, years, and decades.