California leading growth in nation’s green jobs economy, study finds

New green jobs sprouted faster than the overall workforce expanded in California and across the nation from 1998 to 2007, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Even in the current economic downturn, investments in venture capital projects such as energy-efficiency programs and renewable energy are expected to continue expanding, fueled by billions of dollars in federal economic recovery grants, the research foundation predicted in its “Clean Energy Economy” report.

California led the nation in all categories measured. In 2007 alone, clean energy spurred the opening of 10,209 businesses with 125,390 jobs in the state. Venture capital investments in the Golden State totaled nearly $6.6 billion from 2006 to 2008, about five times greater than investments in runner-up Massachusetts.


“California is a leader in America’s clean energy economy and always has been,” said Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the foundation’s Pew Center on the States.

Green energy investments from 1998 to 2007 generated 15% more jobs than did the California economy overall, according to the Pew report, despite the dot-com bust in the early 2000s and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. During that period, California’s clean jobs total rose 7.7% compared with 6.7% for the state’s overall job growth.

The pace of green jobs growth was greater proportionately in the rest of the nation, possibly because other states had smaller green sectors to begin with. The number of new environment-related jobs grew 9.1% in the nine-year span ending in 2007 -- 2 1/2 times faster than the U.S. workforce as a whole, the Pew report said.

The new jobs pay anywhere from $21,000 to $111,000 a year for various positions including clerks, construction workers, skilled craftsmen and engineers. Fields that will need more workers include clean energy production, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly manufacturing, and conservation and pollution control.

The expansion of the green jobs economy could continue to pay dividends well into future, according to UC Berkeley researcher David Roland-Holst in another study released this week. Using more wind, solar and other types of renewable electricity could generate as many as 87,000 jobs in California by 2050, the study said.

Though creating jobs clearly helps the economy, it should not be the sole motivation for boosting spending on green technology, said Severin Borenstein, director of the UC Energy Institute at Berkeley.

“It makes sense investing in the green economy because of the environmental issues and energy issues we face,” he said. “A side benefit will be that it also builds jobs.”