By Jami Miedema

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), passed earlier this year, has put the energy sector in the spotlight. Today, we frequently hear and read about concepts such as “green technology” or “clean energy”. We know, in general, about these ideas, but how do they affect our economy both now and in the future?

The clean energy economy, as defined by The PEW Charitable Trusts, is an economy that “generates jobs, businesses and investments while expanding clean energy production, increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution, and conserving water and other natural resources.” In their report, the PEW identifies five groupings of the clean energy economy: 1) Clean Energy, 2) Energy Efficiency, 3) Environmentally Friendly Production, 4) Conservation and Pollution Mitigation, and 5) Training and Support. Here is a breakdown of how they define each category:

Clean Energy
Building sustainable energy for the future

Energy Efficiency
Reducing and managing our energy demand

Environmentally Friendly Production
Improving our products and processes

Conservation and Pollution Mitigation
Recycling and remediating waste

Training and Support
Helping develop our clean energy technology

According to results of PEW’s research, approximately 65% of jobs in the clean energy economy were classified under Conservation and Pollution Mitigation in 2007. This area includes jobs and businesses such as water and natural resource management, recycling, and remediation of waste. The findings support the notion of increased understanding by consumers and businesses about the need to conserve and recycle resources.

However, the future could look very different from where things currently stand. The PEW’s research further shows that Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Environmentally Friendly Production are growing at a much faster pace than the other categories as companies shift from awareness to action. This means that businesses that produce, distribute, or store energy from wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal sources will see increased demand for their services, as will companies that design or manufacture energy efficient products. This creates optimism in the job market for these areas of the energy industry. While the clean energy economy is still in its early stages, the ARRA will ensure that its growth will continue as grants are made available to fund projects, research, and development.

Source: The PEW Center on the States. (June 2009). The clean energy economy.