(The Center Square) – Washington state is poised to take advantage of the green economy, according to a new analysis from PromoLeaf, an organization dedicated to promoting products and services that are environmentally friendly.
Among the key findings of the company’s “Green Jobs Report 2022” is that an estimated 875,000 Americans work in “green jobs” – jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
Other major data from the report: green jobs are projected to grow 8.6% and add 114,300 jobs over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report found that the median annual salary in the green job sector is $76,530, which is 31% more than the national annual median salary of $58,260.
Park City, Utah-based PromoLeaf looked at states where green jobs employ the most people relative to the national average. By that standard, Alaska, Colorado, and Washington ranked as the top three states. In all three states, green jobs are nearly 1% of the workforce.
Washington’s green jobs workforce is nearly 40% above the national average, per the report, just behind Alaska (48.1%) and Colorado (45%).
The Evergreen State’s third-place finish isn’t a surprise to Jason Miller, lead report researcher and PromoLeaf founder.
“Washington’s economy is historically steeped in the green economy as it was built on sectors that currently utilize renewable natural resources such as forestry, fishing, agriculture, and hydroelectric power,” he told The Center Square in an email. “The state recognizes that clean energy is very important for the state’s economic growth and so they make it a priority. In fact, clean energy accounts for 55% of all energy sector jobs in Washington and made up 74% of the sector’s total job growth in 2019.”
State legislative efforts back up that assessment.
“Washington has passed a number of ambitious policies aimed at making strides towards its competitiveness with California and the growing clean economics in the Midwest and Northeast, particularly in the clean energy sector,” Miller said. “For example, in 2019 Washington passed a 100 percent clean energy bill (SB 5116). The Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act commits Washington to advance its electricity system to be 100 percent clean electricity over the next 25 years.”
Senate Bill 5116, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law in May 2019, applies to all electrical utilities serving retail customers in the state and sets specific milestones to reach the required 100% clean electricity supply: getting off coal by the end of 2025, to be net carbon neutral by 2030, and to be 100% carbon-free by 2045.
“There are several pieces of legislation that are contributing to other sectors of the green economy, too,” Miller added. “For example, in the forestry sector, HB 2528 was passed in March 2020 recognizing the contributions of the state’s forest products sector as part of the state’s global climate response.”
House Bill 2528 created a voluntary grant program for natural and working forests. It promotes forest management and reforestation, recognizing that the forest products sector plays an important role in fostering clean water, wildlife habitats, and carbon sequestration.
“Washington is very much aware that green economy jobs are forecasted to increase and will require new skill sets, yet the demand for workers with the appropriate skill sets exceeds the supply of potential employees,” Miller concluded. “To combat this problem, the state has put together a partnership between the Pacific Education Institute, E3 Washington (Educators for Environment, Equity, and Economy), and Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) called Educating for a Green Economy (EGE).”