Vermont clean energy jobs report features wood energy data

By Erin Voegele | June 07, 2016

A recent report on Vermont’s clean energy industry has determined the state has the highest number of per capita clean energy jobs in the nation. The wood energy industry is among the clean energy industry segments addressed in the report.

The 2016 Clean Energy Industry Report was released by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Department of Public Service in May. It determined the state added more than 1,400 clean energy jobs over the past year, bringing the total number of Vermonters employed by sector to 17,715. This equates to approximately one in 17 workers, or 6 percent of the state’s workforce. According to the report, Vermont currently has the highest number of per capita clean energy jobs of any U.S. state.

This is the third year the clean energy jobs study has been conducted. Since 2013, the state’s clean energy industry has grown by nearly 20 percent.

 "This report clearly shows that our clean energy jobs strategy is working," Shumlin said. "I am so proud of the many thousands of Vermonters working in these thriving industries, including a number of younger Vermonters who have returned home to work in this sector. From here forward it is also clear that no one can say with a straight face that they support growing jobs in Vermont while at the same time supporting moratoriums or bans on clean energy technologies." 

Commenting on the report, Public Service Department Commissioner Christopher Recchia said, “I’m pleased to see the clean energy industry is thriving with many businesses employing so many Vermonters.”

Within the report, the Department of Public Service notes this year represents the analysis’ first deep dive into the state’s advanced wood heating industry, referred to as the wood energy sector. According to the department, wood energy firms employ 1,542 full-time-equivalent workers across their component subsectors of logging, wood fuels, including chips, pellets and firewood, combustion systems and power stations. These businesses are mostly small, with 84 percent reporting only five or less permanent employees. Approximately 6.5 percent reported having six to 10 permanent employees, with 7.2 employing 11-24 permanent workers. In addition, 0.7 percent of wood energy firms reported having 25-49 workers, 50-99 workers and 100-249 workers each.

Approximately 46 percent of firms that work with wood energy attribute all of their revenue to wood energy related activities. Although most firms reported a market decline for their products due to low fossil fuel prices and recent warm winters, the report indicates most have not changed their product offerings. In addition, a quarter of wood energy firms reported revenues have increased over 2015.

About 78.8 percent of wood energy firms reported their primary customers are residential, with 10.6 percent primarily serving commercial clients, and 10.6 percent primarily serving industrial or institutional clients.

According to the report, chip and pellet firms employ more workers per firm and attribute more revenue to wood energy activities when compared to the overall wood energy average. Only 64 percent of these employers reported five or less permanent employees, with 58 percent reporting that all of their revenue is attributable to wood energy.

Approximately 53 percent of Vermont wood energy firms harvest wood for energy, including logging and firewood, while 42.2 percent install, maintain or repair wood combustion systems. An additional 4.2 percent produce chip and pellet fuel products, while 00.4 percent sell and distribute wood fuel.

“Based on the interviews with employers, the institutional and industrial markets are becoming more attractive to wood energy companies in Vermont,” said the Department of Public Service in the report. “The primary reason reported is that as traditional fuel prices decline, institutional clients are more likely to be interested in benefits other than simply cost of fuel, but also supporting the local economy and supporting renewable energy, which has positive branding implications in Vermont.”

The report notes Vermont’s total renewable fuels sector totals 2,500 employees, with about 62 percent of that workforce primarily working with woody biomass technologies, such as logging for fuel wood, chips, pellets, and firewood, or wood energy combustion systems. The remaining 946 employs work with non-woody biomass fuels, primarily biodiesel.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the Vermont Department of Public Service website.