Tennessee grows its green economy.

Guest Blog | June 29, 2011 | Energy Policy

The recent release of the Tennessee Green Jobs Report from Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development reveals an expanding workforce in the state’s green economy. 43,804 green jobs were counted in 2010 with 3,645 green job vacancies across the state. If just these jobs are filled over the next year, that would represent an 8% annual growth rate for green jobs, far surpassing the recent statewide average of about 3%. And these numbers do not include the thousands of jobs coming over the next few years from solar manufacturing giants such as Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie, or the jobs created by the planned Nissan lithium battery plant.

Source: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Employment Security Division, Labor Market Information Section, Green Jobs Study, Spring 2011
Source: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Employment Security Division, Labor Market Information Section, Green Jobs Study, Spring 2011

The report identified 10 sectors of Tennessee’s workforce that fit into the report’s definition of the “green economy.” How much each sector contributes to the almost 44,000 green jobs in the state is shown in the chart above. As you can see, energy efficiency was the sector within the green economy with the most jobs (8,966). The Green Jobs Report went further than this though, breaking down the green economy by geographic region, types of jobs (manufacturing, construction, administration, etc.), and the direction that these sectors might be heading towards in the near future.

Some quick highlights of the report:

  • The eastern part of the state held the majority of the total green jobs with 19,485.
  • Construction and manufacturing dominated the type of green job, each with 22%, followed by transportation at 13%.
  • Some of the largest green occupations in Tennessee are:
    • Team assemblers that may manufacture energy efficient appliances or solar or wind energy components.
    • Civil engineers that are LEED project engineers or who direct sustainable city planning.
    • Transit or intercity bus drivers that drive clean-fuel or low-sulfur buses.
    • Construction laborers that work on home weatherization.
    • Environmental scientists and specialists that monitor environmental impacts and provide recommendations for mitigation.
Solar installers are one of the growing green jobs in TN
Solar installers are one of the growing green jobs in TN

In the report employers were asked what their expected growth rates would be in the next year. Based on their answers, some of the most rapidly growing occupations in the state will be solar photovoltaic installers; computer software engineers (systems software); material movers; urban and regional planners; and refinery and chemical operators related to the emerging biomass and biofuels industry in Tennessee.

Source: www.jobs4TN.com
Source: www.jobs4TN.com

Besides providing employment to Tennessee residents, these green jobs are creating environmental benefits to the community by reducing waste, saving electricity, and using renewable energy.

While this report shows some very promising growth in Tennessee’s green economy, there may be additional good news for these industry sectors. Many of the sectors included in this report are also going to be the focus of Governor Haslam’s new plan, Jobs4TN, which has the goal to make Tennessee the number one state in the southeast for high quality jobs.

The first strategy in this plan is to “prioritize target clusters and existing industries.”  Advanced manufacturing/energy technologies and automotive manufacturing were two of these identified “target clusters.” Advanced manufacturing includes industries that produce clean energy products such as silicon manufacturing from Hemlock, Wacker Chemie, and Confluence Solar for solar photovoltaic cells. The automotive industry focus will be on Nissan and Volkswagen developing energy efficient vehicles in Tennessee.

As Tennessee is trying to recover from economic downturn, it is encouraging to see the green economy growing and being supported by state government. With the growth rate surpassing the state average, green jobs are helping to bring down the unemployment rate, while also increasing the quality of life both economically and environmentally. Therefore, it is important to continue to support the existing green economy while also attracting new green industry to Tennessee.

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