Solar energy jobs are growing 12 times faster than the US economy

If you're looking to switch careers, you might want to listen to the wind.

According to a new report, wind turbine technician is the fastest growing profession in the United States.

The growth in wind power is just one example of the rising employment numbers associated with the clean energy and sustainability sector. According to the report, published by the Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Corps program, the industry now has at least 4 million jobs, up from 3.4 million in 2011.

The report estimates that solar and wind jobs are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the US economy, and suggests that 46% of large firms have hired additional staff to address issues of sustainability over the last two years.

Those impressive gains stand in contrast to Donald Trump's stance on energy. The president has consistently championed eliminating environmental regulations and increasing fossil fuel production as a promising way to bring jobs to America.

"Trump's current approach is basically ignoring an entire industry that has grown up over the last 10 years or so and is quite robust," Liz Delaney, program director at EDF Climate Corps, tells Business Insider.

Trump has falsely claimed that the Keystone XL Pipeline would create 28,000 good construction jobs, though reports suggest he exaggerated the number by a factor of seven. And the White House website suggests that eliminating regulations like the Climate Action Plan and Waters of the US rule would increase worker wages by more than $30 billion over the next seven years, but according to Climate Central, that number is actually based on a non-peer-reviewed paper (written for a fossil industry organization) that looked at the potential economic impacts of opening all protected federal land to unlimited mining and drilling.

RELATED: The top industries expected to grow in the next 5 years:

top 10 industries expected to grow in 5 years
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top 10 industries expected to grow in 5 years

#10: Nail salons
2016 jobs: 144,707
2021 jobs: 171,694
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 26,987
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 19 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#9: Computer system design services
2016 jobs: 983,426
2021 jobs: 1,167,108
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 183,682
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 19 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#8: Environment conservation and wildlife services
2016 jobs: 63,303
2021 jobs: 75,136
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 11,833
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 19 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#7: Marketing consulting services
2016 jobs: 293,431
2021 jobs: 350,922
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 57,491
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 20 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#6: Telemarketing bureaus and other contact services
2016 jobs: 484,941
2021 jobs: 582,153
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 97,212
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 20 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#5: Continuing care retirement centers 
2016 jobs: 474,886
2021 jobs: 587,787
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 112,901
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 24 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#4: Home health care services
2016 jobs: 1,466,964
2021 jobs: 1,795,388
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 348,424
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 24 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#3: Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists
2016 jobs: 374,154
2021 jobs: 466,371
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 92,217
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 25 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#2: Translation and interpretation services
2016 jobs: 38,162
2021 jobs: 48,709
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 10,547
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 28 percent

Photo credit: Getty

#1: Electronic shopping
2016 jobs: 245,403
2021 jobs: 324,322
Estimated jobs added 2016 - 2021: 78,919
Estimated increase in jobs from 2016-2021: 32 percent

Photo credit: Getty


According to the EDF report, however, the compound annual growth rate of employment in the fossil fuel industry (a measurement of average amount of increase per year) was -4.5% between 2012 and 2015. Renewable energy jobs had a rate of 6% during that period. Oil and gas production jobs increased in November 2016 for the first time in two years, following a slump caused by low oil prices. The average number of employees at US coal mines dropped by 12% in 2015, according to the EIA.

When it comes to electricity generation in the US, the Department of Energy's 2017 Energy and Employment Report suggests that the solar industry now employs more people than coal, oil and gas combined. Oil still employs the largest share when including jobs related to fuels, however.

"Our findings would lead us to believe that the right place to invest dollars are in renewable energy rather than fossil fuels," Delaney says. "These jobs are widely geographically distributed, they're high paying, they apply to both manufacturing and professional workers, and there are a lot of them."

Delaney says one of the most surprising findings of the EDF report is that 70% of the 2.2 million Americans who work in jobs related to energy efficiency are employed by companies with 10 employees or less.

"What we're talking about here are American small businesses," she says, adding that because many sustainability jobs involve installation, maintenance and construction, they're harder to outsource.

Although federal subsidies and tax credits have helped foster the growth of solar and wind power in the US — thereby adding jobs in those industries — much of the trend is due to the falling prices of both technologies. The EDF's report suggests the cost of production for solar PV panels dropped 72% between 2010 and 2015, making solar power much more competitive in the energy market. Solar deployment, consequently, has expanded tenfold since 2010, from 876 to 10,727 megawatts installed annually.

It's possible that Trump's promises to scale back environmental regulation and cut research in renewables might add new fossil fuel industry jobs and even curtain growth in the sustainability sector, but market forces suggest it would be very difficult to stop the overall trend towards renewables. The DOE's Energy and Employment Report predicts that energy efficiency employment will have a 9% growth rate over the next 12 months — higher than any other energy sector.

"I think it's really all about speed of transition," Delaney says. "I think the transition will continue, but there's a role that the federal government can play in supporting that, which is significant."

If the federal government abandons that role in order to boost the fossil fuels industry, she says, the US will be giving up a tremendous growth opportunity.

NOW WATCH: President Trump signs orders to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines

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Trump claims the Keystone XL pipeline will create 7 times more construction jobs than it actually will

SEE ALSO: Trump claims the Keystone XL pipeline will create 7 times more construction jobs than it actually will

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