Tech Insights

State of the Industry: The Evolution of US Energy Jobs and Salaries

August 18, 2023 by Kevin Clemens

The growth of renewables promises a robust job market for engineers and technicians.

The energy industry has long been a cornerstone of the U.S. economy, providing millions of jobs and contributing trillions of annual revenue. Over the years, this sector has experienced shifts in focus, driven by factors ranging from technological advancements to environmental concerns. A seismic change is underway – transitioning to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. This shift is altering the energy landscape and reshaping employment opportunities and the very nature of work in the industry.

 

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Image used courtesy of MADe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Green Wave: Rising Demand for Clean Energy Jobs

As environmental consciousness takes center stage, there is a growing demand for clean energy sources that reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. This demand has translated into a surge in job opportunities within the renewable energy sector. According to the U.S. Energy & Employment Jobs Report, the clean energy workforce expanded by nearly 300,000 jobs from 2021 to 2022, outpacing the growth rate of the overall U.S. workforce. The clean energy sector, encompassing solar, wind, hydropower, and more, experienced a 3.9% increase in jobs.

 

Embracing Renewable Energy

The growth of renewable energy jobs is underpinned by a series of compelling reasons job seekers are attracted to this field:

  1. High Demand: The transition to renewable energy is a global imperative, resulting in increasing demand for skilled professionals to design, implement, and manage sustainable energy systems.
  2. Attractive Salaries: Renewable energy jobs offer competitive salaries, with the average salary for a renewable energy engineer in the U.S. being $78,974, which compares favorably to engineering positions in other industries.
  3. Impactful Work: Working in renewable energy offers the chance to contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future, a rewarding prospect for many job seekers.
  4. Innovation and Advancement: The renewable energy sector is a source of innovation, pushing the boundaries of technology and research to improve efficiency and reliability.
  5. Career Diversity: From solar installers and wind turbine technicians to environmental scientists and geoscientists, the sector offers an array of career options to suit various interests and skill sets.

 

Navigating the Path to a Renewable Energy Career

For those considering a career in the renewable energy industry, there are strategic steps to take:

  1. Education and Training: Seek out programs offering specialized training in renewable energy technologies. Numerous colleges, universities, and online platforms provide courses tailored to this sector.
  2. Networking: Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and capitalize on social media to connect with peers and experts in the field.
  3. Geographic Flexibility: The renewable energy industry operates across regions, so be prepared to relocate for opportunities that align with your career goals.

 

Power Delivery Sector Transformation: Compensation Trends

The power delivery sector, encompassing transmission, distribution, and substation domains, is experiencing a transformation that is reshaping the landscape for mid-level talent. The demand for skilled professionals intensifies as the sector witnesses heightened project wins and expansion. This demand-supply dynamic is driving a notable shift in compensation trends.

 

Increasing Salaries

Mid-level professionals in the power delivery sector are enjoying increasing average base salaries. According to the RO Power Delivery Salary Guide, from 2022 to 2023, these salaries have seen significant growth:

  • Transmission: 3-5 years experience – $104,000 (11% increase), 6-10 years experience – $129,000 (7% increase)
  • Distribution: 3-5 years experience – $96,500 (17% increase), 6-10 years experience – $124,500 (2% increase)
  • Substation: 3-5 years experience – $98,000 (12% increase), 6-10 years experience – $137,500 (16% increase)

It is clear that power delivery professionals with three to five years of experience are in high demand and seeing pay increases as high as 17 percent. This is significantly higher than senior engineering and management professionals (with more than 11 years of experience) who have seen their pay stagnate.

 

Beyond Monetary Rewards

While competitive compensation remains crucial, professionals increasingly value aspects beyond pay. The industry is witnessing a shift where work-life balance, company culture, and benefits are pivotal in attracting and retaining top talent. This changing perspective highlights the sector's need to adapt and communicate the broader advantages of working within their organizations.

 

Into the Energy Employment Future

As renewable energy gains momentum and the power delivery sector evolves, the U.S. energy industry has undergone and will continue to experience a significant transformation. 

Renewable energy jobs are crucial to retaining and creating employment opportunities in the U.S. As the nation embraces cleaner energy sources and transitions away from fossil fuels, the growth of the renewable energy sector directly contributes to job retention by providing an avenue for skilled workers in traditional industries, such as fossil fuel extraction and power generation, to transition into sustainable roles. 

This transition prevents job displacement and taps into existing expertise, enabling workers to contribute to the evolving energy landscape. 

These jobs cannot be moved overseas as building infrastructure is a hands-on activity that must occur locally. Moreover, renewable energy industry expansion fuels demand for diverse roles from engineering and manufacturing to installation and maintenance, thereby bolstering the domestic job market.  

By fostering innovation, attracting investments, and creating a multiplier effect across related industries, renewable energy jobs fortify the U.S. labor force and contribute to the nation's economic resilience.