Last year, Greentech Media partnered with the Clean Energy Leadership Institute to collect data from professionals across sectors with the ultimate goal of developing a guide for young professionals venturing into clean energy. 

While a number of organizations — including the Department of Energy, The Solar Foundation, and Advanced Energy Economy — have researched the host of jobs in the clean energy sector, we sought to dive deeper to uncover some of the underlying reasons that young people want to work in this industry.

What we found shouldn’t be all that surprising: In surveying 300 submissions from just about every clean energy subsector, we discovered (or rather, confirmed) that the rising generation of clean energy professionals are mission-driven stewards of the environment and social good.

The majority (70 percent) of survey respondents were new to their careers, with 1-5 years of experience in clean energy — and a whopping 98 percent indicated that they either have a strong desire to stay in the industry for the duration of their career or would prefer to stay with the right opportunities in place. 

Eighty percent of all respondents indicated a strong desire to positively impact the environment, while 13 percent cited the desire to work in a fast-paced, disruptive environment.

Of those people focused on the environment, 68 percent either want to be an executive, start a company, or run for office. The correlation between career ambition and protection of the environment is simply astounding.

Further illustrating this values-driven workforce, here is a breakdown of the average ranking of preferred (1 being the most preferable, 5 the least preferable) attributes of a potential employer.

“Positive Company Culture and Environment” easily stood out as more important than any attribute, in stark contrast to “Competitive Salary/Benefits,” reinforcing the common notion that young professionals will often take a salary cut to work their dream job.

From a qualitative standpoint, these quotes neatly summarize the thesis of the data we collected about working in clean energy: 

  • “For me there is no better job than one that can connect you to the environment and technology.”
  • “Energy is at the confluence of many environmental issues, and there are huge opportunities to change the industry for the better.”
  • “I've found that the clean energy community is exceptionally passionate, approachable and collaborative. Reach out to people who are doing fascinating things. Chances are they are ecstatic to share their experiences with you!”
  • “I want to make this world a better place for my kids. I want to use my skills and abilities for a moral good. Working in solar unifies a spiritual desire and a professional desire.”

The Clean Energy Leadership Institute was founded to bring together rising energy leaders from across sectors in a truly collaborative setting and equip them with the tools and training to help them thrive. 

This week, we’re inviting rising professionals from across the country to emPOWER, a nontraditional conference that will focus on building and expanding this bright, diverse and passionate community of leaders to advance innovative clean energy solutions. Come join us.


Mishal Thadani is co-founder of District Solar. He's the conference chair of emPOWER.