Clean-energy jobs in Oklahoma climbing, Pew study shows

Published: Thursday, June 11, 2009 7:00 am By: Rod Walton

The Oklahoman

Clean-energy jobs in Oklahoma climbing, Pew study shows

Oklahoma's clean-energy industry still lags that of other neighboring states, but its job growth rate was three times faster than all other sectors statewide, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts study released Wednesday.

Oklahoma's mix of clean-energy businesses, including wind and geothermal efforts, grew by 6.8 percent from 1998 to 2007, the study concluded. The overall job growth rate statewide was 2.4 percent for the same period.

Oklahoma Energy Secretary Bobby Wegener put some perspective on the numbers, noting that alternative industries were smaller and thus more likely to put up bigger growth percentages.

Yet those statistics may point which way the economic wind blows.

"It illustrates the point that there are some real opportunities in Oklahoma's future in maintaining this sustainable-energy economy," Wegener said. "It's important for us to diversify."

An April study by the American Wind Energy Association indicated that Oklahoma ranked No. 12 nationally in total megawatts of installed capacity in 2008, down from No. 9 the previous year.

Oklahoma wind farms could generate 831 megawatts as of December, the association reported.

The Pew study indicated that clean-energy jobs nationally grew at a 9.1 percent clip for the 10 years that ended in 2007. Oklahoma employs nearly 5,500 people in jobs supporting those renewable power sources.

"Oklahoma has a small but growing piece of America's clean energy economy, with jobs in the clean energy economic sector growing more than three times as fast as total jobs," said Kil Huh, the Pew project director and lead researcher.

The report said that venture capitalists poured more than $5 million into Oklahoma clean-energy projects in the past three years. These projects included wind, geothermal and biofuels.

One anemic area of Oklahoma's energy picture is nuclear power.

The state was one of only nine with fewer than 100 nuclear-energy jobs as of 2007.

Wegener supports the theory that Oklahoma needs all of the alternative sources to keep itself viable economically.

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