The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) had already created over 100,000 clean energy and climate-related jobs in the United States six months after it was signed into law, and an additional 9 million jobs are anticipated to be added over the next decade. In fact, it is estimated that 99% of people who will be working in climate by 2030 haven’t even begun yet. But which types of companies are seeing the most growth and which types of jobs are currently the most in demand?
We spoke with Catherine McLean, CEO and founder of clean energy and sustainability recruitment firm Dylan Green, someone who lives and breathes these jobs on a daily basis, for more information. Listed below are the top clean energy hiring trends her firm is seeing.
No. 1: Project development, project origination and project finance roles remain the most in demand jobs
Catherine: “Project development, then project origination, and thirdly, project finance jobs, particularly among utility-scale solar and storage, community solar, commercial and industrial, distributed generation and electric vehicle (EV) companies, are still the most in-demand jobs. I’m confident this trend will continue in 2024. The reason for this is that there is a lot of capital being invested into these kinds of projects at the moment. However, I have noticed as interest rates have increased, this has become a concern for some companies, as the cost to borrow has increased. The majority of the clean energy employers who are hiring the most right now are owned by private equity firms. This wasn’t the case several years ago. It’s also worth noting that the National Solar Jobs Census reported that 67% of the solar workforce works in development and installation. Solar project development jobs have therefore always been in relatively high demand, but increasingly so now, in light of recent investments in these specific types of roles. There are a ton of applicants who work in marketing and communications, but I’m actually seeing the least demand for these types of roles currently.”
No. 2: Solar jobs, followed by energy storage jobs, represent the majority of new job openings
“While I’m seeing increases across the board – from wind energy to EVs to solar and storage – I’m seeing the largest job growth among solar companies, followed by energy storage companies. After solar and storage jobs, the next largest increases are coming from EV companies, specifically fleet electrification firms. I would also add that sustainability job openings have been increasing at a similar rate to EV job openings. A couple of years ago, I wasn’t filling any roles with EV companies or organizations looking to start or develop their sustainability departments. Today, it’s a different story. Not only am I seeing more EV roles, but they’re less research and development-oriented and more focused on actual technology deployment. These types of companies are particularly interested in candidates with strong real estate experience.”
No. 3: Employers are increasingly hesitant to allow fully remote work
“Unlike the past several years, the majority of clean energy and sustainability employers have made a marked shift away from fully remote work in favor of in-person or hybrid work. I will say that if a candidate is highly sought after, employers are willing to negotiate to allow an extra remote day or two, but most employers are still now strongly against fully remote work. Hybrid roles with two or three days per week in office are the most common scenarios I’m seeing. The only exception is for project development roles, where frequent travel to project sites is required. I think it is also important to point out that this drastic shift away from remote work is having a disproportionate impact on women, who spend about double the time men spend on primary childcare and elderly care, according to recent studies. Remote work enables women to more easily balance work and household responsibilities by cutting out substantial commute times and providing greater flexibility in their schedules. As a result, if a job offer does not allow for remote work, women are more likely to turn down the offer. This is an unfortunate trend that I hope to see change, as there are countless studies about the benefits of remote work for women’s labor force participation and career advancements.”
No. 4: Employers are increasingly interested in hiring BIPOC and women staff
“My clients are often requesting more diverse candidates, as employers appear to be much more aware of the benefits of hiring and retaining staff from a wide range of backgrounds – including over 25% greater company profitability. This is great news, as it’s essential that we prioritize diversity as our industry rapidly expands – both because it’s the right thing to do and because it has been proven to enable greater innovation. This trend of seeking more diverse candidates substantially grew during the pandemic. In fact, between 2015 and 2022, the U.S. solar industry increased its female workforce by 62%, 141% for Hispanic and Latino workers, 33% for Asian workers and 114% for African American workers. This is exciting progress and I’m confident this trend will continue in 2024.”
No. 5: Employers strongly prefer candidates with clean energy experience
“Even though there will be many more clean energy and climate-related jobs in the future than there are candidates with clean energy experience, employers still strongly prefer to hire those with clean energy experience. Although this may change years from now, I see this trend remaining throughout 2024. It’s important that clean energy job seekers take note of this, as things like clean energy-focused internships and educational certificates can go a long way to getting your foot in the door. I also highly recommend that job seekers without clean energy experience network within our industry. We have compiled a thorough list of clean energy and sustainability networking opportunities here.”