Energy efficiency’s $1 trillion identity

Jan. 23, 2009
By Elisa Wood January 22, 2009 The energy efficiency industry is a bit like the orphan who grows up to discover his long-lost parents left him a fortune. The industry suffers from an identity crisis, says a report by the American Solar Energy Society. What is energy efficiency? Insulating attics? Demand response? Plug-in hybrids? Led […]

By Elisa Wood

January 22, 2009

The energy efficiency industry is a bit like the orphan who grows up to discover his long-lost parents left him a fortune.

The industry suffers from an identity crisis, says a report by the American Solar Energy Society. What is energy efficiency? Insulating attics? Demand response? Plug-in hybrids? Led lights? Combined heat and power?

ASES decided to quantify the worth of the energy efficiency job market, so first needed to define the industry. Here is what the organization came up with:

A job in the EE industry consists of an employee working in a sector that is entirely part of the EE industry, such as an energy service company (ESCO) or the recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing sector. It also includes some employees in industries in which only a portion of the output is classified as within the EE sector, such as household appliances, HVAC systems, construction, automobile manufacturing, and others.

The definition also includes those in government, finance, education, non-profit and environmental organizations, education, consulting and similar fields that deal with energy efficiency.

Using this definition the industry’s worth is tremendous. Gross revenues nationwide totaled more than $1 trillion in 2007. Energy efficiency created nearly 8.6 million jobs, more than 98% in private industry.

It is hard to fathom the import of $1 trillion. ASES provides perspective. It exceeds the combined sales of the three largest US corporations: Wal-Mart, Exxon- Mobil, and General Motors in 2007. Their sales were a meager $905 billion.

Beyond the report, why is it important for the industry to proceed with a clear identity? As President Obama moves forward with his “New Energy for America,” many will vie for a prominent position in the plan. ASES makes clear that a coalesced efficiency industry can provide what Obama seeks. Jobs and plenty of them: 29.8 million by 2030 that range from blue collar to high tech.

The industry has found its name–and fortune. Here is the chance to spread it around.

Visit Elisa Wood at www.realenergywriters.com and pick up her free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

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