The number of "clean energy" jobs in New Jersey has been increasing steadily the last few years and advocates say could grow faster soon due to a law enacted a year ago Thursday.
To mark the anniversary of Gov. Phil Murphy signing a bill designed to promote the use of renewable energy sources and increase statewide energy efficiency, the nonpartisan business group E2 issued a report that finds there were 51,582 clean-energy jobs in New Jersey in 2017.
That was up from 49,936 in 2016, E2 said. A portion of the data for 2018 was released in March, indicating that the number of clean-energy jobs in New Jersey grew by around 2,800 last year, not including jobs related to clean vehicles and other small categories.
“These reports are really valuable because they dispel this notion, this misconception that clean energy jobs are some far-off concept, something in the future. But these are good jobs that people are working in now,” said Noah Dubin, Eastern states advocate for E2. “And they can’t be outsourced, and they can’t be shipped overseas.”
E2 said New Jersey ranks ninth in renewable energy jobs, ninth in solar jobs, sixth in geothermal jobs, sixth in bioenergy, and seventh in low-impact hydro jobs among the states.
“It’s nice to be in that race again and to be vying for the most innovative state in addressing climate change,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.
Board of Public Utilities president Joseph Fiordaliso said a draft of the blueprint for meeting the state’s goal of “100 percent clean energy” by 2050, an update to the Energy Master Plan, will be released next month and that a final version should be approved by year’s end.
“We are sensitive, however, to the cost impact on ratepayers of building a clean-energy economy. That transition is going to take time, and it’s going to cost all of us some money,” Fiordaliso said. “But it’s also going to create a new economy – a new economy that’s going to boost the standard of living of money of our fellow citizens.”
The biggest growth has been in energy efficiency jobs, which are up from around 31,700 in 2016 to 33,800 in 2017 and 36,200 last year. Mary Barber of the Environmental Defense Fund said the state is far below the efficiency targets of the new law so there will be increased demand for such work.
“The clean energy act ensures that that number will grow,” said Barber, an EDF director of regulatory and legislative affairs. “The new, cost-effective energy efficiency program enabled through the act will yield large savings for all New Jerseyans by reducing energy demand through better insulation and more efficient heating and cooling in homes and buildings.”
Another 11,900 jobs are in renewable energy, with 8,800 jobs in the solar industry accounting for the bulk of that.
The number of wind industry jobs remains small: 500 in 2016, 640 in 2017 and 762 in 2018, according to the federal data E2 uses. But that should grow significantly as the state pursues offshore wind turbines and new manufacturing capability, with many of those jobs expected to be in South Jersey.
“By 2030, we’re hoping to have – we will have – 3,500 megawatts of wind power generating energy here in New Jersey, which is going to generate energy to 1.5 million homes,” Fiordaliso said. “We’re going to need a lot of employees, a lot of jobs, a lot of workers to do something like that.”
Potosnak estimated there will be 10,000 jobs in the wind industry alone.