5 Tips for Working in Clean Energy

Angie - Test Knowles, | May-11-12



How to get a job in the clean energy industry

Looking for a job in a field that is forward-thinking, challenging and rewarding? Canada’s fast-growing clean energy sector may be just the perfect setting.  
With unprecedented investment growth in the face of serious economic odds, clean energy industries are currently in a phase of significant expansion and development. 
Last year alone, Canada’s clean energy investment grew by 4% to $5.5 billion, based on the Pew Charitable Trusts’ recent report, Who is Winning the Clean Energy Race?
Phyllis Cuttino, the director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program, notes in an interview with BBC, “We now have 565GW of installed (generation) capacity around the world. That outstrips nuclear installed capacity by 47%... So I think the facts fly in the face of those individuals who say this is a niche industry. This is a growing and maturing sector."
Much of this progress can be attributed to several major trends. At the macro-level, ECO Canada’s 2010 Canadian Environmental Sector Trends study found that a large-scale, cross-sectoral shift to pollution prevention and diversification is transforming numerous environmental industries, including those related to alternative and renewable energy. 
Additionally, the Pew report discovered that recent industry-specific changes have also spurred growth in the clean energy sector. These changes include falling energy prices, growing investments in asset finances, and an increase in small distributed clean energy projects.
Overall, these trends point to a strong future for clean energy occupations. For those considering a career move into this progressive sector, there are 5 key factors to keep in mind:

1.) Clean energy-related skills are becoming increasingly important for environmental work 

In ECO Canada’s Profile of Canadian Environmental Employment, researchers measured how many Canadian environmental employees perform work in different occupational skill categories, such as environmental health and safety or waste management. Remarkably, about 10% of environmental workers in Canada, or 71,287 individuals, relied on skills associated with alternative/renewable energy and eco-efficiency in their jobs. 

2.) The wind and solar energy sectors are especially prominent in Canada

For professionals considering which clean energy sub-sectors are viable options in Canada, the wind and solar sectors have experienced significant investment activity. 
Based on the Pew study, just over half (56%) of the investments in Canada were directed to wind resources ($2.8 billion) in 2011. An additional 37% of resources ($2 billion) were directed to the Canadian solar sector. 

3.) High levels of education and qualifications are paramount…

Compared to professionals in the general Canadian workforce, clean-energy employees tend to have higher levels of education. In ECO Canada’s Profile study, 39% of professionals working in alternative/renewable energy and eco-efficiency had at least a bachelor’s degree, in contrast to just 22% of typical Canadian workers. 
Industry-specific certifications are also critical to the success of professionals working in clean energy. In a survey of energy professionals by the non-profit Association of Energy Engineers, 86% of respondents stated that holding a certification actually allowed their company to attract more work proposals, while 52% indicated that the certification helped increase their overall professional visibility.

4.) …But industry experience also matters

The bulk of employees in alternative/renewable energy and eco-efficiency are intermediate and senior-level professionals. According to the Profile report, only 8% of workers were entry-level (namely recent grads with limited industry experience). Instead, 24% of employees were intermediate, with 4 to 7 years of experience, and 48% were senior-level, with over 8 years of experience. 
These stats are good to know for new professionals looking to enter the clean energy sector. Simply having a relevant degree is probably not enough. Industry-related experience matters a great deal in this field, whether such hands-on expertise is developed through work placement programs, internships, or even volunteering. 

5.) Median salaries tend to be high

Now for the good news – occupations in the clean energy sector often pay well. In the same survey by AEE noted above, professionals working in energy engineering reported an average annual salary of $96,683. 
It is not often that one can find a job that makes a positive social and environmental difference, yet still offers this kind of lucrative financial benefit. Perhaps a clean energy career is the ultimate case of having your cake and eating it too? 
Clearly, clean energy industries present an exciting, future-oriented career path that couples environmental awareness with technological innovation and strong financial perks. 

For those of you currently working in clean energy or looking to enter this field, what have your experiences been so far?