- A paper highlights just how many jobs in a commuting zone are wind or solar based on job opening data.
- Places with higher shares of job postings that are wind tended to be down the middle of the US.
- With the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law, there could be more postings for green energy jobs.
As the threat of climate change becomes more real every day, the US is increasingly moving to green energy. And a recent study shows that some parts of the country are already seeing a boom in wind and solar jobs based on job posting data.
That's according to an analysis using pre-pandemic job openings provided by Lightcast. The authors of the paper find, based on job posting data and what they considered a wind and solar job, that these jobs "are very unevenly distributed across the US territory."
The researchers found the share of 2019 job postings that are considered wind and solar in 741 commuting zones across the US. Lightcast, formerly Emsi Burning Glass, provided the data used in the working paper, but the published results come from the authors' interpretation for what counts as wind and solar jobs. Lightcast told Insider it has a wider definition of green jobs.
Insider mapped the results of the paper by commuting zone and matched it to the county or counties the communing zones map to. The following map shows the share of job postings that are wind in commuting zones across the US:
"Commuting zones with a high share of wind jobs are concentrated on a vertical stripe in the middle of the country from Texas to North Dakota," the authors wrote.
Outside of that "vertical stripe" though was the commuting zone with the highest share. Condon, Oregon had 9.66% of job openings being a wind job. Vernon, Texas had the second highest share per the paper at 4.76%.
The researchers of the paper note some limits to using job postings data. For instance, there's potential that these openings may not have been filled.
The authors of the paper, E. Mark Curtis of Wake Forest University and Ioana Marinescu of University of Pennsylvania, defined green jobs using three different elements of criteria for their analysis. Included jobs had to match at least one. For instance, if the position title and/or the occupation said "solar," "photovoltaic," or "wind," then it was considered falling into their definition. Another element is based on the skills noted; it must "explicitly" need "a skill that relates to wind or solar energy." Additionally, it falls under the definition"if it is posted by a firm that posts a relatively high share of jobs that require wind or solar skills."
While the map for wind shows shares tended to be higher in the middle of the county, the authors find the share of jobs that are solar in an area don't follow the same exact pattern as wind.
Childress, Texas had the highest share of solar job postings at 6.94%. Another place in Texas, Stephenville, followed behind this percentage. However, it was several percentage points behind, with a share of 2.35%.
Even though some of these percentages seen in the various commuting zones for both of these green jobs across the nation may seem low, Curtis told Insider they can still have a big impact.
"If you're talking about 1% of job postings being directly wind and solar, especially in some of these communities, that is a really big deal," Curtis said.
One state that stood out in the paper is Texas, as the paper notes it "has a high share of both wind and solar jobs."
"Thus, Texas is already an energy hub for both fossil fuel and renewable energy," the authors wrote.
With the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law, more and more clean energy jobs are expected to be created
The Inflation Reduction Act is expected to create new jobs in clean energy. Researchers of the Political Economy Research Institute find that it will create over 900,000 jobs a year on average over 10 years. A White House fact sheet also argues that it will create clean energy jobs. The Inflation Reduction Act is also supposed to help lower emissions and lower people's energy costs.
Curtis said based on his and his co-author's findings that the kinds of green energy jobs "likely to be created by the [Inflation Reduction Act] will be well-paying and located in areas whose economies are reliant on fossil fuel extraction." Research already suggests that there could be millions of jobs created over 10 years as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Curtis told Insider one main result based on the job posting data he and his co-author used is "that the jobs that are being created are largely in areas that currently have high fossil fuel employment." He added that this suggests "that this is going to make the transition from a fossil fuel based energy economy to a renewables based economy smoother than it otherwise would've been." However, he added "we don't have direct evidence on this."
"Given the domestic production requirements that are part of the bill we should expect to see more solar and wind jobs show up in the manufacturing sector than were seen in the study," Curtis said. "A major reason why environmental legislation has been so difficult to pass is that it has lacked political support from rural and 'red' areas of the country."
Curtis pointed out that many of the green job postings fall in "red" areas of the US, such as in parts of Texas.
"The results of the paper suggest that jobs created in green energy will largely go to more conservative areas that have historically relied on fossil fuels," Curtis said. "Future environmental legislation is more likely to pass if the green energy transition is perceived as helping these regions."
The study not only looked at where wind and solar jobs are in the US but also includes the wind and solar jobs by occupation and industry, pay premiums, necessary education, and job vacancy growth over time. Curtis told Insider one takeaway of his and his co-author's research is just how large growth in these green energy jobs has been since 2007. They found job postings for wind and solar jobs have "more than tripled since 2010."
And more clean or green energy jobs could be made as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act.
"Clean energy tax credits will be increased by 10% if the clean energy projects are established in communities that have previously relied upon the extraction, processing, transport, or storage of coal, oil, or natural gas as a significant source of employment, creating jobs and economic development in the communities that have powered America for generations," a fact sheet from the White House about the Inflation Reduction Act stated.