Powering the future: explore the rise of clean energy jobs

Whether through drought, forest fires, extreme weather, or melting glaciers, climate change poses a threat to the health and safety of humans, global economies, and the natural environment.

So, it’s understandable that the renewable energy industry continues to increase in scope and popularity. This article details the growth of clean energy jobs and provides an overview of 10 green energy roles so you can determine if one or more align with your interests and goals.

What are clean energy jobs?

Clean energy jobs represent an innovative and vital sector of the global workforce. Green jobs bridge an array of fields, but the primary areas of concentration are in renewable energy, energy efficiency, grid modernization and energy storage, and clean transportation.

Jobs in renewable energy are primarily in the bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind industries. These clean energy jobs typically involve manufacturing, distribution, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy by solar panel installers, energy engineers, wind turbine technicians, and other professionals.

According to the 2023 Electricity Market Report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewables and nuclear energy will meet almost all the growth needs of the global electricity supply by 2025.

Energy efficiency jobs involve manufacturing and installing energy-efficient lighting and appliances, upgrading old heating and cooling systems, and increasing insulation. These green jobs can help to decrease emissions and strain on the electric grid while lowering individual and organizational utility costs.

Professionals in the grid modernization field help to increase the adoption of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. They do so by transitioning to reliable digital smart grids, building microgrids that enhance energy autonomy and resiliency, and supporting energy storage solutions that can be used in electronic devices, electric vehicles, and home battery systems.

Clean transportation jobs include electrical and mechanical engineers, assembly line workers, and technicians who assist in the planning, development, and production of clean vehicles and transportation infrastructure. This sector supports the adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles for individuals, businesses, and public transportation.

The growth of clean energy jobs

A significant driver of growth for clean energy jobs was the passing of US President Joe Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which assigned $370 billion in tax credits to the renewable energy industry. The act also set a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in America to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

According to a report by the nonprofit Climate Power, within six months of the IRA coming into law, almost $90 billion was invested and more than 100,000 clean energy jobs were created in the US. The report also notes that more than nine million green jobs could be created over the next decade.

As per data in the 2022 annual review by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), there were approximately 923,400 clean energy jobs in the US in 2021—and the sector could employ 38 million workers worldwide by the end of 2030.

Other key global findings in the IRENA report include:

  • Global employment in clean energy hit 12.7 million jobs in 2021
  • At 4.3 million, solar energy had the largest share of renewable energy jobs
  • Hydropower and biofuels each provided 2.4 million new jobs
  • Wind power saw 1.3 million new jobs
  • Almost two thirds of all renewable energy jobs were based in Asia

When it comes to the top five renewable energy companies around the world that are working to eliminate fossil fuel use and decrease emissions, the standouts are:

  1. NextEra Energy Inc: $147.57B market cap, largely wind and solar power
  2. Iberdrola SA: $75.67B market cap, energy from wind, hydro, nuclear, and natural gas
  3. Orsted A/S: $36.19B market cap, wind power
  4. Vestas Wind Systems A/S: $29.58B market cap, wind power
  5. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA: $12.97 market cap, turbine equipment and off-grid systems

10 Clean energy jobs

Not only are clean energy jobs in demand, but if you pursue a career in solar, water, electric or other renewable energy sectors, you’ll have the opportunity to make a difference by helping to reduce the impacts of climate change and protect the natural environment.

Read on to explore ten innovative and rewarding roles in the clean energy industry, including the latest salary and job growth data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and ONET.

1. Wind turbine service technician

Job growth by 2031: 44%, which is much faster than average
Wind turbine service technicians are in charge of installing, maintaining, and repairing wind turbines. This involves climbing wind towers and testing equipment to ensure that mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic systems are operating correctly and diagnosing issues and making fixes as necessary. Wind techs may also collect turbine data for research and analysis, as well as service wind field substations, underground transmission systems or fiber optic sensing and control systems.

2. Solar photovoltaic (PV) installer

Job growth by 2031: 27%, which is much faster than average
Solar PV installers assemble, set up, and maintain rooftop solar panels that turn sunlight into green energy. Typical duties may include:

  • Following safety standards and procedures to install solar modules, panels, and support structures
  • Connecting PV panels to electrical systems
  • Activating and testing PV systems
  • Performing routine maintenance for family homes, businesses, or on land

Depending on the employer and state regulations, PV installers may also be responsible for connecting solar panels to the electrical grid.

3. Sustainability specialist

Job growth by 2031: 7%, or about average
Sustainability specialists work with other professionals to develop sustainability project goals, initiatives, and strategies. Primary responsibilities for this role may include:

  • Researching regulatory or technical issues
  • Monitoring sustainability indicators like natural resource and energy use, waste generation, and recycling
  • Collecting data on green building practices to inform decision-making
  • Creating education outreach or marketing materials

4. Environmental scientist

Job growth by 2031: 5%, or average
Environmental scientists are responsible for conducting research to understand environmental issues, such as land, air, and water pollution, and developing plans to control or fix them. This may involve collecting and analyzing data from water, air, soil, and food samples, using scientific knowledge to develop plans to clean up polluted areas, working with manufacturers to reduce harm to the environment, and advising decisionmakers on regulation and policy.

5. Urban planner

Job growth by 2031: 4%, or about average
Urban planners create development plans and programs for land, community, transportation, and public use. As part of this role, they may advise public officials, builders, and engineers on sustainable development practices; collect and analyze data from market research, economic, and environmental studies; and help to revitalize towns, cities, and metropolitan areas while considering the related social, financial, and environmental concerns.

6. Environmental engineer

Job growth by 2031: 4%, or about average
Environmental engineers use their expertise in chemistry, biology, engineering, and soil science to come up with remedies to environmental issues including acid rain, automobile emissions, climate change, and ozone depletion. They also work to enhance waste disposal, recycling, public health, and drinking and wastewater treatment initiatives. In some cases, these engineers may design and inspect water reclamation facilities, air pollution control systems, and other remediation projects.

7. Hydrologist

Job growth by 2031: Little or no change
Hydrologists study how precipitation impacts groundwater levels and river flows and use their knowledge to solve issues regarding water quality and availability. Additional duties for this role may include analyzing information on the environmental impacts of drought, erosion, floods, and pollution; researching strategies to reduce the harmful effects of erosion, sedimentation, and contamination; and evaluating the viability for projects such as hydroelectric power plants and wastewater treatment facilities.

8. Electronics engineers

Job growth by 2031: 6%, or about average
Electronic engineers design electric vehicle control systems (including digital entertainment), advanced driver safety systems (such as automatic breaks), and battery management systems. As new technologies continue to emerge, the expertise of electronic engineers is needed to develop, test, and maintain electric components and equipment. An important part of this role is ensuring that electronic systems meet safety standards and regulations, particularly when it comes to self-driving features.

9. Environmental science and protection technician

Job growth by 2031: 6%, or about average
Environmental science and protection technicians are responsible for investigating pollution and contamination sources that affect the environmental, as well as public health and safety. This may involve collecting air, water, and soil samples for analysis, using equipment such as remote sensors to monitor emissions levels from smokestacks, and inspecting public places and businesses to verify compliance with pollution regulations.

10. Air quality engineer

Job growth by 2031: 4%, or about average
Air quality engineers are a type of environmental engineer that specializes in reducing air pollution and promoting high-quality, breathable air. These professionals can choose to focus on improving air quality indoors, outdoors, or both. As part of their duties, they use computer modeling, chemical analysis, and statistical analysis to assess air pollution levels and develop strategies to improve breathability—such as natural air purification systems or ventilation infrastructure.

Explore the certificate in climate change at Penn LPS Online

Interested in pursuing a career in clean energy? If so, you may benefit from gaining an understanding of the Earth’s climate system and how and why it has changed over time.

In the four-course Certificate in Climate Change you’ll learn about the history and scale of climate change and have an opportunity to develop the skills and policies to mitigate its risks. And you’ll learn basic atmospheric and ocean dynamics to help you understand critical climatic processes and future changes.

The climate change credential at Penn LPS Online also prepares you to:

  • Analyze long-time climate change regionally and globally
  • Understand the importance of natural environmental change as a benchmark for assessing human impacts, recent environmental change, and future climate change
  • Develop the communication skills to effectively share your understanding of climate change with a focus on science and environmental policy

If you haven’t already, apply to Penn LPS Online today, and enroll in the Certificate in Climate Change. You can also register for individual classes or view our course guide to see what’s available in any upcoming term.

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