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New Mexico leads the US in energy efficiency jobs

In 2018, thirteen states in the US increased their energy efficiency jobs by as much as 5%, which is a great accomplishment. However, the most significant increases in this field were made in New Mexico, Colorado, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

In fact, New Mexico has ranked number 1 in energy efficiency job growth. This information comes from an E4TheFuture report, which is a nonprofit organization and nonpartisan business group. Their report shows that, in 2018, energy efficiency jobs grew 3.4%, which makes up 28% of all jobs in the energy industry.

Most of the energy efficiency jobs that helped New Mexico become the leader are found in construction, including retrofitting buildings so they’re more efficient. They’re also found in manufacturing, where employees build appliances that are energy efficient. Additional jobs include the installation of LED lighting systems.

Overall, thirteen different states got a 5% or more increase in energy efficiency jobs. The most growth happened in New Mexico with 11.6%, followed by Oklahoma and Colorado with 7.2%, and then New Jersey with 7.1%.

Thanks to this amazing growth in New Mexico, PNM Resources has decided to partner with various cities in the state in an effort to make New Mexico a solar energy leader. The utility was also approved to acquire Western Spirit, a project of renewable energy transmission that will create 800 MW of wind energy.

According to PNM’s CEO and Resources President, Pat Vincent-Collawn, their goal is to become one of the clean-energy national leaders so they can attract more business into New Mexico, allowing the state to prosper with greater economic opportunities for everyone.

In 2017, New Mexico had a little over 5,000 energy efficiency jobs, but that number jumped to more than 5,600 jobs the following year, an increase of 12%. Even so, this pales in comparison to California, which is the nation’s leader with 318,542 jobs in the energy efficiency sector. Obviously, comparing the two nominally is unfair, since California’s population is around 20 times larger than New Mexico’s, but New Mexico has 1 job in energy efficiency per 374 residents, whereas California is a very impressive 1 energy efficiency job per 124 residents.

California is followed by New York, Texas, Illinois, and Texas as the states with the most energy efficiency jobs. In 2019, it was projected that these numbers would grow by 7.8%, a growth correlating with the number of new businesses and projects that are in their infancy. Reports are yet to come, but I’m confident these numbers were met, if not surpassed.

Energy efficiency is great news for everyone, because it saves both consumers and businesses money on power bills. It’s also a thriving industry that creates jobs and helps the economy grow in every state of the country. Additionally, it’s an industry that contributes to a much greener world and a better environment.

Energy efficiency jobs supply more jobs as well as help keep the industry moving forwards and combating the negative effects of climate change.

Ben Schultz's picture

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 28, 2019 7:59 am GMT

"Energy efficiency is great news for everyone, because it saves both consumers and businesses money on power bills. It’s also a thriving industry that creates jobs and helps the economy grow in every state of the country. Additionally, it’s an industry that contributes to a much greener world and a better environment...Energy efficiency jobs supply more jobs as well as help keep the industry moving forwards and combating the negative effects of climate change."

Ben, from your optimistic conclusion you seem to believe

"Hiring many skilled workers to analyze and retrofit existing buildings has resulted in confirmed reductions in energy consumption, leading to confirmed reductions in carbon emissions."

Correct? If so, there are a number of problems with that belief.

Except during WWII, energy efficiency has only been a stated goal of government policy since the 1970s. After the OPEC oil embargo, legislators realized energy dependence on other countries made the U.S. vulnerable to foreign control. It was a matter of national security, and had nothing to do with the environment.

Since then, environmentalists have embraced efforts to improve energy efficiency, because it seems logical: using less energy makes less CO2 and other pollution in the air. Does it? Let's look at some facts:

  1. Energy consumption has no direct effect on carbon emissions or climate change. If we use fossil fuels to generate that energy, it does. If not, it doesn't. That should be self-evident.
  2. Since the 1970s, the ability of efficiency improvements to reduce energy consumption has been grossly exaggerated. Arik Levinson is an environmental economist at Georgetown and was a senior economist for environmental issues with the Council of Economic Advisors (C.E.A.) under President Obama.

    “One of my jobs,” he says, “was helping the White House evaluate the environmental policies coming out of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency. And I quickly realized that most of the policies that I was seeing involved energy efficiency." He launched upon an in-depth analysis of the effects of building codes in California on energy consumption, and concluded "There is no evidence that homes constructed since California instituted its building energy codes use less electricity today than homes built before the codes came into effect.” Many reasons (some counter-intuitive) here.

  3. There's no evidence the carbon impact of millions of additional efficiency jobs results in a net reduction in carbon emissions. That any analysis must include the carbon impact of the efficiency industry itself should be self-evident, too.

  4. Any correlation between employment and productivity in an industry is tenuous, at best. For an explanation of why this is the case, I leave you with a famous anecdote attributed to a friend of economist Milton Friedman: "Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: 'You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.' To which Milton replied: 'Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.'"

Ben Schultz's picture
Ben Schultz on Dec 28, 2019 7:32 am GMT

Regarding the first point: there will always be a demand for energy, and we can only expect the demand to rise. While it's good to cut back where we need to, I think it's important to concentrate more on the generation, not the consumption. Perhaps that's an unpopular opinion around here, but, regardless, it's going to happen whether people want it or not.

As for 4, you raise a good point. I would counter that these jobs are necessary at the moment, otherwise they wouldn't exist; the free market simply won't abide large-scale inefficiency for very long. Your Friedman anecdote is an amusing one, but I think that sheer numbers right now is an important step for effecting change. As for point 2, that is an interesting insight; thanks for your contribution.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 28, 2019 3:42 pm GMT

Ben, prioritizing clean generation may be an unpopular opinion around here, but I completely agree.

Efficiency is only a concern for the most affluent, both in the U.S. and abroad. Do those living in abject poverty care whether the three lightbulbs in their shack are LEDs? Of course not - they care about whether they will turn on when needed, and whether the electric pump at the well in their village will pump fresh water any time of the day or night. Whether the wind is blowing, or not.

Which brings me to another consideration I've neglected: cost. That so many people now have jobs is wonderful for the employed; who is paying them? Are we raising electricity rates to cover the cost of efficiency improvements, or taxes, or both?

"...the free market simply won't abide large-scale inefficiency for very long."

In an email conversation with a former attorney for FERC, after she retired over frustration with deregulation, she asked me, "What leads you to believe there's a free market in electricity?" She went on to explain how economics preclude free market competition wherever the end user, the consumer, has no freedom of choice. Though deregulated companies profiting on the sale of electricity have created the illusion of a "market" in electricity, consumers are at the mercy of whoever owns the wires that bring it to their homes. Consider the implications: utilities remain monopolies, and all deregulating them accomplishes is to free them from any responsibility for providing safe, reliable electricity service. Whether that means cutting Shell or Chevron in on profits from the sale of gas, or neglecting their reliability of transmission, their only consideration is profit. After they hand consumers the bill, we have two choices: whether to pay it, or do without.

All to say, consumers have abided large-scale inefficiency for so long because they have no other choice. An honest question: is your electricity bill lower now that you've installed LED bulbs in your home?

 

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