Sen. Maria Cantwell Touts Washington’s Status in Energy Sector Economy

By:  Alex Brown
Source: The Chronicle

Washington is emerging as a leader in energy efficiency jobs, Sen. Maria Cantwell said Wednesday, unveiling an energy sector report alongside former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

“[E]nergy efficiency creates its own feedback loop that the savings go into helping a company become more competitive, and then it helps them make more investments and it just keeps going,” Cantwell said, according to a transcript provided by her staff.

Cantwell and Moniz presented the third edition of the U.S. Energy and Employment Report. The report was originally produced by the Department of Energy, but the role has fallen to the private sector after the Trump administration ended federal involvement. This year’s report was produced by Energy Futures Initiative, which was founded by Moniz, in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials.

According to the report, Washington is a national leader in energy efficiency jobs, responsible for 3 percent of all such jobs nationally, a number that continues to climb. While much of that growth is due to investments by the technology industry and efficiency mandates in urban areas, things like weatherization programs in rural areas like Lewis County contribute as well.

Cantwell also highlighted the importance of training energy workers, citing an aging workforce and a surplus of high-paying jobs.

“These are good-paying jobs too, with an average wage of $5,000 above the national average,” she said. “The training requirements, from apprentice to advanced degrees, are all critical aspects of training and skilling this workforce.”

In the past, Cantwell has cited Centralia College’s workforce development programs in energy technology as good model. According to material provided by Cantwell’s staff, Washington entities have secured “more than 10 percent of national awards for grid-related workforce training activities.” Centralia College has been awarded $11.8 million in grants for those effort, with $4.99 million of that federal funding.

Overall, the energy industry accounted for 7 percent of all new jobs in the U.S. last year, with energy efficiency jobs accounting for 67,000 of those positions. In Washington, one third of all energy sector jobs are efficiency-related.

“[Y]ou would think that someplace like the Northwest that already has a cheap and affordable electricity wouldn’t be on this continued path of continuing its investment, but I can tell you there are so many companies focusing on this I can’t even keep up with them,” Cantwell said. “[A]nd so they are continuing to invent and to innovate and we are just so excited to continue to see that.”

Cantwell used the event to highlight her 21st Century Energy Workforce Act, which would create a federal grant program for workforce training and establish advisory boards to develop a curriculum.