PROVIDENCE – The clean-energy sector in Rhode Island employed 16,021 at the beginning of 2019, according to the 2019 Clean Energy Industry Report released Wednesday by the R.I. Office of Energy Resources and the R.I. Executive Office of Commerce.
The report projected that employment in the sector will increase to 16,908 in 2020.
The research was conducted by BW Research Partnership. It is the fifth report of its type since 2014. Employment data was collected over the fourth quarter of 2018.
The sector’s employment increased 1% year over year, according to the report, but has increased 16.3% since 2016. However, the report noted that when employment was adjusted for hours worked in the clean-energy sector (the amount of work employees do in the field can vary depending on their industry), then clean-energy sector employment increased 5.1% year over year.
The figures include jobs in the energy-efficiency sector, the renewable and efficient heating and cooling sector, the renewable-energy sector, and clean transportation, among other jobs.
In fact, the majority of the clean-energy jobs in the state were in the energy-efficiency field, roughly 59%.
The report also noted that the largest classification of workers in the clean-energy sector was for installation, maintenance, repair and operations, employing 9,087 workers, followed by engineering, research and professional services at 3,166 employed.
The report showed that a majority of clean-energy sector workers in the state were concentrated in Providence County, at 9,471 jobs, followed by Kent County at 2,840.
The report also noted that employers in the field are finding increased difficulty in hiring, with 80% reporting a challenging environment, double the percentage from a year before. The report found that employers cited a lack of experience in applicants, increased competition, and a lack of certifications or education as a barrier to hiring in the field.
The report cited the Real Jobs Rhode Island program, operated by the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, as providing essential job training opportunities for the state’s solar industry and highlighted the program’s Fostering Fuel Talent program as creating opportunities for the delivered-fuel sector to train in energy efficiency and renewable heating and cooling careers.
The report concluded that the talent shortage in the industry would best be solved by the proliferation of vocational training, expansion of pre-apprenticeship programs and accurately aiming internship programs at the correct demographics. The conclusion of the report specifically cited workforce-development programs as necessary for full growth in the clean-energy sector.
The report also showed that in the clean-energy field, entry-level positions generally had a premium over comparable entry-level positions not in the clean energy field.
The highest premium for an entry-level position in the renewable-energy sector over workers in traditional fields was for sales representatives, who earned 74% more at $30.31 per hour. Premiums persisted in mid- to high-level positions throughout the clean energy sector but were most pronounced in entry-level positions (the only job classifications where traditional careers experienced a premium were construction laborers and automotive service technicians).
The report projected continued growth, noting that the construction and operation of the offshore wind project from Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource, as well as solar-energy incentives will likely have a positive effect on the sector.
Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor. You may reach him at Bergenheim@PBN.com.