In 2009, there were 2.2 million green jobs in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By July of this year, that number had increased to 2.7 million, the Brookings Institution estimates. By comparison, there are 375,000 workers who mine coal, produce oil and gas and turn fossil fuels into consumer products.
The solar industry is just one part of the clean energy economy - but an important part. According to just-released data from the Solar Foundation, jobs in that sector grew by nearly 7 percent in the past year, far outpacing the rest of the U.S. economy.
Clean energy companies now produce enough solar electricity to power more than 630,000 homes. Wind power is generating electricity for consumers and businesses in 38 states. And we're saving businesses and consumers billions of dollars each year by making our office buildings and home more energy efficient and by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels.
But creating truly transformational technology is tough. Success almost always comes with a few failures. Upgrading the way our nation makes and uses energy isn't going to happen overnight or without some casualties.
In Washington this week, Congress is holding hearings that could help decide how and where we as Americans get our energy, now and in the future.
We hope like most Americans, our lawmakers will realize that we must keep pushing forward on clean energy - for the sake of our economy, our national security, our country's future.
The stakes are too high, the promise too big to walk away.
The last thing we need to do now is turn away from a clean energy future. We didn't pull the plug on Edison when the first light bulb blew out or close up shop when the first Ford got a flat tire. We didn't quit delivering basic necessities like electricity and water to the masses just because a few people at the time thought it was a waste of government money.
Doing something as big as transforming our nation's energy infrastructure, quite simply, is something industry can't do alone. The reach and the impacts are too huge for government not to remain involved.
History has shown that when we're tackling something this big, government must be a partner. Without government support and funding we wouldn't have a national highway system. We wouldn't have electric lights in our homes. And the Internet and the subsequent boom in technology that drove our last economic expansion wouldn't exist.
Building a new energy system for our country is no different.
We must invest in a new energy future to create a new energy future.
If we don't, we're relegating ourselves to remain shackled to the fossil fuel-based past, and all the problems - high gas prices, pollution and health problems, dependence on foreign countries - that come with it.
Nicole Lederer is co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a group of business executives that promotes environmentally sustainable economic growth. Kevin Surace is CEO of Serious Energy Inc. Laura Berland-Shane is business development manager for industry, solar vertical markets at Siemens. Vince Siciliano is CEO of New Resources Bank.