Report shows growth in US biofuels, bioenergy jobs

By Erin Voegele | April 15, 2020

The Energy Futures Initiative and the National Association of State Energy Officials recently published the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, which determined U.S. jobs in woody biomass and biofuels were up 2 percent in 2019.  

Total jobs in bioenergy reached 121,093, which includes 107,915 jobs in fuels production and 13,178 jobs in electric power generation. Subcategories of bioenergy include ethanol, “other ethanol” fuels, wood biomass and “other biofuels.”

Corn ethanol employment fell slightly between 2018 and 2019, but woody biomass and other biofuels added 775 jobs, for total growth rate of nearly 2 percent.

Woody biomass accounted for 33,426 jobs last year, up 260 jobs when compared to 2018. A category referred to as “other ethanol,” which includes non-woody fuels such as biodiesel, reached 20,694, up 620 jobs when compared to the previous year. In addition, a category referred to as “other biofuels,” which is defined as biofuels derived from living matter that do not fit under the category of corn ethanol or “other ethanol,” reached 18,928 jobs in 2019, up 514 when compared to 2018.

The 33,426 jobs in wood biomass includes 17,665 jobs in agriculture, 4,593 jobs in manufacturing, 1,028 jobs in wholesale trade, 10,096 jobs in professional services and 45 jobs in other services. The 20,694 jobs in “other ethanol” includes 2,531 jobs in agriculture, 2,838 jobs in manufacturing, 5,462 jobs in wholesale trade, 9,789 jobs in professional services, and 74 jobs in other services. The category of “other biofuels” includes 1,112 jobs in manufacturing, 1,655 jobs in wholesale trade, 16,128 jobs in professional services and 34 jobs in other services for a total of 18,928 jobs.

Under the category of “other ethanol” fuels, 86 percent of employers in wholesale trade, distribution and transport said that hiring was somewhat difficult or very difficult last year. Employers in the category also said that they are expecting 4 percent job growth in 2020, with hiring concentrated in wholesale trade, distribution, and transport, an in professional services. In 2019, “other ethanol” fuels accounted for 2 percent of the nationwide fuels workforce.

Woman accounted for 33 percent of workers in the “other ethanol” fuels category, compared to a national average of 47 percent. Approximately 9 percent of the workforce was veterans, compared to a national average of 6 percent.

Wood biomass fuel for energy and cellulosic biofuels accounted for nearly 3 percent of the nationwide fuels workforce last year. Approximately 73 percent of the professional service employers reported it was somewhat difficult or very difficult to hire. The sector is expecting 3 percent job growth in 2020, led by professional services.

Women accounted for 28 percent of the wood biomass fuels workforce in 2019. Approximately 16 percent of the sector’s workforce was veterans, up significantly from the national average.

Total employment in biomass fuels, including wood and non-woody, reached 54,100 workers last year, up 65 percent when compared to 2015.

In the electric power industry, bioenergy combined-heat-and-power (CHP) added 1,099 jobs last year, reaching 43,520 jobs.

Biomass electric power generation accounted for 13,178 workers in 2019, up 202 jobs when compared to 2018, a 1.6 percent increase in employment. The sector included 1,897 jobs in utilities, 5,809 jobs in construction, 1,133 jobs in manufacturing, 576 jobs in wholesale trade, 3,317 jobs in professional and business services, and 446 other jobs. Approximately 92 percent of manufacturing employers and 84 percent of professional business services employers said that hiring new workers was somewhat difficult or very difficult last year.

Employers in biomass electric power generation expect to increase employment by 3 percent this year, primality in the professional business service sector, which is expecting 9 percent growth.

Women represented 31 percent of workers in biomass electric power generation. About 12 percent of the workforce members were veterans.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the website.