Electricity industry supports more than 7 million American jobs

More than 2,000 community-owned, not-for-profit public power utilities in the United States employ more than 93,000 people.

From lineworkers who climb the poles to keep the lights on to managers who oversee the business side of the utility, public power jobs are critical to the community. Further, they offer competitive salaries and benefits to go along with hometown service.

Public power represents a critical piece of our nation’s electric infrastructure, serving approximately one in seven electricity customers. And when you pull the camera back and look at the entire industry, the economic and job impacts are significant.

A recent study conducted by M.J. Bradley & Associates on behalf of the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association revealed that the electric power industry directly supports nearly 2.7 million jobs across the United States — including nearly 500,000 direct employees.

These power industry jobs support an additional 4.4 million induced jobs in U.S. communities, including 445,000 public-sector jobs through tax revenue.

In all, seven million American jobs one in every 20 — are supported by the electricity industry.

The study shows that power industry personnel receive competitive wages. In 2015, median annual wages in the electric power industry were $73,000 — double the national median. And most of these employees work in the industry for more than 15 years, on average, in careers that support their families and anchor them in their communities.

These seven million jobs contribute in a big way to the industry’s total annual economic impact of $880 billion — approximately five percent of America’s gross domestic product. Of this total, $274 billion represents direct contributions to the U.S. GDP, equaling 1.6 percent of the nation’s total economic output.

The electric power industry is the most capital-intensive industry in the United States. It operates infrastructure of breathtaking scale and complexity and invests more than $100 billion annually to build a smarter energy infrastructure and a cleaner generation fleet. These investments create jobs and benefit customers by making the energy grid smarter and more secure.

The full report is available at

Industry Profile: Enrique Candelaria

Twenty years ago, Enrique Candelaria was working in a plant in Puerto Rico, making generators for airplanes while going to school to earn a degree in mechanical engineering. After 9/11, the plant had to make significant layoffs. Enrique decided to move to Kissimmee, Florida, where his mother lived, and he came across Kissimmee Utility Authority. There weren’t any positions available to work in the plant, so Enrique applied to be a part-time meter reader. During a tour of a power plant, he noticed a turbine connected to the same type of generator he used to build for 747s. He asked to observe the plant during time off, which prepared him to work as a mechanic when an opening became available. After working in various positions in the plant over seven years, and going to school at night to get a degree in electrical engineering, he moved into his current role as a relay technician.

Enrique is one of only three relay technicians at KUA and a handful across the state working to protect the electrical grid. His dual background in mechanical and electrical engineering helps him diagnose faults and losses in the electrical grid and at plants. As Enrique noted, “There aren’t any schools that teach [relays]. That’s why we’re so few.”

Industry Profile: Hannah Pifer

As an environmental engineering student, Hannah Pifer was part of an on-campus energy auditing group at North Carolina State University, where she began to learn about the electric industry. When a colleague in that group mentioned an internship opportunity at ElectriCities, a joint action agency for public power utilities across the state, Hannah was excited to apply. In her internship, she learned a lot about the industry by helping to conduct energy audits and energy savings analyses, auditing load management switches, visiting with members, and conducting a business case analysis of emerging technologies. After graduating in 2014, ElectriCities hired Hannah as a renewable energy portfolio manager.

In her role, Hannah manages the purchase of renewable energy certificates and develops solar programs for 54 public power utilities in North Carolina. Hannah credits her engineering background for helping her to understand the technical aspects that go into developing and operating renewable energy facilities so that she can make informed decisions for members. Hannah enjoys the challenge of tailoring the services for each member utility, which vary in size and have diverse needs. She said her role allows members to be environmentally responsible and to comply with the law in a least cost manner, all which ultimately saves the ratepayers money. Most of all, Hannah is excited to witness and contribute to an industry with so many emerging technologies leading to constant improvements for members and customers alike.