Was just re-reading the WSJ story about the Dept of Labor's Occupational Handbook, and noticed not a single "green" job made the list of top 10 growth professions. I've covered solar and wind manufacturing in my consulting business, and this doesn't surprise me.
Just like IT, greentech is subject to tremendous productivity gains and outsourcing, which stunt employment growth. And in terms of green electricity generation, over 90% of the jobs are in building the power plants, not running them.
A few months ago, I served as a business plan judge for green startups here in the DC area, and many of the ideas were centered on building small businesses, including one I gave high marks - an energy efficient gym. But very few of these ideas are the sorts of companies that will ever grow large enough to justify a major venture investment.
The hardest part of my work in solar and wind has been trying to help MBAs and college grads who want to work for manufacturers, because there are so few finance and marketing jobs at these places. Even the rapidly growing, successful ones don't hire like software/media/IT hardware startups. First Solar, for example, grew from just $100 million in sales in 2006, to over $2 billion last year. But 80% of its labor force works in the factory. It has just 800 people working in finance, engineering, management, administration, and marketing, which works out to just one office worker for every $2.5 million in revenue. Cisco, on the other hand, has about one office worker for every $500,000 in revenue.
Greentech is a growth industry, but not much of a jobs producer. The small environmental businesses offer more promise for regions looking to grow employment in this area.