Grid Modernization Can Grow Washington’s Economy and Create Quality Jobs

New report offers policy recommendations to foster Washington’s grid modernization industry to support an annual average of over 13,800 jobs through 2030.

Building on Washington’s strengths in grid modernization can maximize job growth and give the state a competitive economic edge. That is according to The Washington Jobs Project: A Guide to Creating Jobs in Grid Modernization, a new report created by the American Jobs Project in partnership with the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute and Western Washington University. The JPB Foundation, Incite Labs, the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, the Fung Institute, and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society funded the report.

“Our research shows that smart policies and a focus on sector-based growth can allow states to become hubs of innovation and job creation in advanced industries that dovetail with a state’s own strengths,” said Kate Ringness, lead editor of The Washington Jobs Project. “By fostering the grid modernization industry in the state, Washington could reasonably support an average of over 13,800 direct, indirect, and induced manufacturing and supply chain jobs annually from 2017 through 2030.”

Millions of Americans lost good-paying jobs during the recession, and unfortunately, many of the jobs created during the recovery have been in relatively low-skill, low-income occupations. In contrast, The Washington Jobs Project proposes innovative strategies to create thousands of skilled jobs that pay well for Washingtonians today and into the future, informed by principles of competition, local control, and less red tape.

The report recommends state-specific policies and non-legislative solutions to support job creation by capitalizing on growing market opportunities and aligning manufacturing with critical economic system components, including access to capital, innovation ecosystems, and workforce development.

Grid modernization improves reliability, security, and resiliency of the electric grid; ensures efficient transmission and distribution of electricity; creates two-way communications pathways between consumers and utilities; and enables flexibility in how electricity is generated. Grid modernization technology includes: energy storage, advanced sensors, high-voltage direct current transmission and distribution lines, transformers, smart meters, and Internet of Things platforms for grid management.

“Washington State stands ready to become a leading global innovation center for advanced grid and energy storage technologies based on our solid economic foundation that mixes research, industry and policy,” said J. Thomas Ranken, president & CEO of the CleanTech Alliance. “Building programs to optimize and accelerate research, industry and policy collaboration can propel our state forward while creating thousands of clean energy jobs that improve our economy, energy resiliency and our lives.”

The Washington Jobs Project finds that:

  • Washington state holds a competitive advantage in the grid modernization sector, thanks to its:
    • Well-established anchor companies such as Schweitzer Engineering Labs, Itron, and Doosan GridTech.
    • World-class research facilities including the University of Washington, Washington State University, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory performing cutting-edge research in grid modernization.
    • Proven competitive advantage in the internet of things—a key element of grid modernization technology.
    • Strategic export location to the Pacific Northwest and Asia.
    • Well-educated workforce.
    • State and corporate leaders’ commitment to increase the deployment of renewable energy generation.

By building strong economic foundations that support industry growth, Washington’s grid modernization industry has the potential to support 13,800 direct, indirect, and induced jobs, on average, annually from 2017 through 2030.

Director of the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, Daniel Schwartz, and Director of Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies, Joel Swisher, were partners in The Washington Jobs Project. Schwartz stated, “The Washington jobs report makes clear that jobs in the advanced energy sector benefit the entire state today, and with smart policy, wise investment and partnerships, we have an extraordinary opportunity to drive job growth that touches every county."

The Washington Jobs Project offers policy recommendations that could help grow Washington’s grid modernization industry. These include:

  • Strengthening the state’s foreign direct investment strategy.
  • Providing tax incentives to grid modernization companies.
  • Supporting access to university and national lab resources for small businesses.
  • Expanding career-connected learning in high schools.
  • Incentivizing utility innovation.

To learn more and download a copy of the Washington report, visit

The American Jobs Project is a nationally focused, research-based initiative dedicated to U.S. economic growth through advanced industries. We bring best practices and innovative ideas from around the globe to state and local leaders, creating bottom-up strategies that create good-paying jobs. To identify and tailor solutions to state needs, we partner with academics at major universities and institutes as well as dozens of local stakeholders in industry, government, and nonprofits. We focus on solutions that account for the nuances of public opinion and political feasibility, knowing that one size does not fit all. The ultimate goal: middle-class jobs for communities across the nation.

Clean Energy Institute at the University of Washington was founded in 2013 with funds from the state of Washington. Its mission is to accelerate the adoption of a scalable clean energy future that will improve the health and economy of our state, nation, and world. To accomplish this mission, CEI supports the advancement of next-generation solar energy and battery materials and devices, as well as their integration with systems and the grid. The institute creates the ideas and forms the people needed to generate these innovations, while facilitating the pathways to bring them to market.

Institute for Energy Studies (IES) at Western Washington University (WWU) is a multi-college collaboration that offers interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees that address the science, technology, policy, business, and economics of energy systems. The growing WWU energy curriculum includes about two dozen courses and four-year degrees in electric energy engineering, energy policy and management, and business and sustainable energy, as well as minors in energy policy and energy science and a self-designed major in energy and environment. IES also supports graduate students who conduct energy technology and policy research to complete MA and MS degrees in WWU’s Huxley College of the Environment.