In recent years, Massachusetts has become a leader in renewable energy policy, strategy and growth. This past June the state was ranked first by the U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index for its progressive policies and second for technology development and installation. In addition to these accolades, the state has also enjoyed a booming renewable energy job market. Since 2011 renewable energy employment rates have risen 24%, according to a report by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC).
The state enjoys a diverse portfolio of renewable energy investments, including solar, wind, hydropower and bioenergy. The diversity of these investments has encouraged innovation and supported job growth, evident by the state’s approximately 80,000 clean energy employees, ranging from engineers and researchers to manufacturers and assembly workers.
According to the MassCEC nearly 60% of these workers focus on solar energy, an industry that has thrived as a result of government incentives. According to the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, in May 2013 the state met its 2017 goal to install 250 megawatts of solar power capacity. As of September 1, 2013, the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs reports 311 megawatts of solar capacity have been installed, and a new goal of 1,600 megawatts for 2020 – enough power for 400,000 homes – has been set.
While solar may be the largest renewable energy industry in the state, wind energy is expected to have significant growth by 2020. The wind industry currently employs 2,300 in Massachusetts. While installations of standard land-based wind farms will continue, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has reported there is about 6,000 MW of offshore wind potential, and the state is pushing to finish the nation’s first offshore wind farm by 2016.
Though the hydroelectric energy industry does not generate energy comparable to the solar or wind industries, the hydroelectric industry employs about 2,700 state residents, and according to the state’s Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs accounts for 13.2% of the state’s energy in the winter and 14.2% in the summer. In 2012, the office raised the capacity limits for hydroelectric power generation to 30 MW.
The growing success of the state’s green energy industry is expected to continue. The MassCEC projects an 11% increase in jobs by the end of 2013. This sustained job creation is largely due to private and government clean energy project investments, which were virtually nonexistent in 2010. In 2012, there was an estimated $312 million in investment capital supporting the industry throughout the state. However, the MassCEC reports this growth is slower than national and global trends, making continued innovation essential to continued financial support.
Renewable energy investment is part of a larger global initiative to decrease dependence on greenhouse gas-producing fuel sources such as coal and natural gas and reduce our carbon footprint to help offset the current trends of climate change. With states following the lead of Massachusetts, renewable energy will continue to grow, support job creation and make energy consumption sustainable and environmentally friendly.
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Paul Batistelli freelances in the energy field for the promotion of a greener society and energy means. He works to raise awareness on ecological issues, energy dependency, and reducing carbon footprints. He currently resides in Dallas, TX with his lab, Copeland.