Report from Gov. Mills’ Energy Office Manipulates Clean Energy Data


Earlier this month, the Energy Office of Gov. Janet Mills released a report on Maine’s clean energy industry in 2023. This report is the latest in a long series of clean energy industry reports where the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) tries to gauge the growth of clean energy jobs over the previous year and focus on how the industry can be supported. This year’s report shows that over 15,000 clean energy jobs exist in Maine, but the GEO’s method of tracking clean energy jobs over inflates the numbers in several ways.

One significant way Maine inflates its clean energy jobs is by deceptively including industries secondarily related to emissions, and this mislabelling has been happening for years. One example is the clean energy sector of “energy efficiency” jobs, which are not jobs that produce or store clean energy but rather jobs that reduce emissions in some way, like an insulation installer. By misrepresenting the job market, Maine’s executive branch is attempting to inflate the state’s clean energy job measure and falsify the impact of environmental policy.

Including energy efficiency jobs has caused inflation that has a massive impact on the final numbers. Energy efficiency makes up over 8,600 of Maine’s clean energy jobs, but most jobs in this category are HVAC or insulation installers. Even if one argues that energy-efficient HVAC installers should be counted, the report also includes traditional HVACs and includes many workers who, in some indirect way, reduce Maine’s emissions. Another industry added under this reasoning is construction, which includes electricians, insulation installers, plumbers, and many other construction workers, making up about 49% of the 2022 clean energy workforce. 

Another way the report inflates these numbers is through the counting part-time workers. Suppose a worker spends even a minimal amount of time working on clean energy technology, such as an electrician who occasionally works on solar panels. In that case, that counts as an extra clean energy worker for the 15,000+ jobs metric. The report attempts to adjust for this overvaluation of part-time workers by creating a 2022 “intensity adjusted employment” number, bringing the total clean energy employment number from 15,020 for the year to 11,063. While it is good that the office admitted that their main reporting number is overinflated, one has to wonder why they use the 15,020 number at all, let alone make it their primary measure of employment.

While it may seem more impressive to the governor and her staff, saying that Maine had 15,020 clean energy jobs in 2022 is incredibly deceptive. The fact is that there were only an adjusted total of 11,063 full-time clean energy jobs in our state, according to the report, despite it being about 26% lower than the number Mills’ Energy Office cited. This 11,063 number does not mean that this is the total number of full-time workers, as it also adds part-time work into full-time workers, such as two half-timers equalling one full-timer. However, it is still a far more accurate representation of clean energy jobs than the number the governor is using.

The GEO data also reveals a startling fact: only 60.5% of the reported clean energy workers are actually engaged in full-time clean energy work. This further undermines the credibility of the report’s numbers. If we consider Gov. Mills’ 2030 goal of 30,000 clean energy jobs, it becomes clear that Maine is not even close to reaching that target, even with the numbers inflated by unrelated careers and part-time workers. 

Yet another significant problem with the report is its inclusion of electric power distribution in the definition of the clean energy industry. The North American Industry Classification System code used, 221122, encompasses Avangrid Inc., the owner of Maine Central Power. This means that any electric power transmission worker employed by Maine Central Power appears to be counted as a clean energy worker, a clear misrepresentation of the clean energy workforce. 

Whether subsidizing clean energy jobs is a good or bad policy (it’s bad), misinformation like this seriously distorts the debate on climate change policy. To debate the degree to which Maine should work against climate change, we must first find an objective set of facts that we can all agree on, and this GEO report tries its best to stop that from happening.