News Release: NREL’s Economic Impact Tops $1 Billion

March 13, 2019 | Contact media relations

In fiscal year (FY) 2017, the economic impact of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) amounted to more than $1.1 billion nationwide, according to a study by the University of Colorado Boulder's Leeds School of Business. The new study estimates NREL's impact on Colorado's economy at nearly $748 million.

“NREL’s work in Colorado has far-reaching impact and benefits the country through our award-winning research and advanced energy solutions,” said Martin Keller, NREL director and president of the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC (Alliance).

A woman studies images on a computer screen.

Researcher Elisa Miller works with a photo electron spectrometer in the surface analysis lab at NREL. She is studying perovskite materials and mapping out energy diagrams. Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL

The report was funded by the Alliance, which manages and operates NREL for DOE. With the goal of transforming energy through science, NREL links its world-renowned researchers, unique capabilities, and state-of-the-art facilities with partners throughout the country. The laboratory develops advanced energy solutions to integrate energy into systems of every scale.

The study, conducted by Richard Wobbekind and Brian Lewandowski of the Business Research Division at the Leeds School of Business, found that during FY 2017:

  • NREL employed 1,745 full-time and part-time employees
  • Approximately 60 percent of employees were involved in core research and development
  • More than 95 percent of NREL employees hold at least a bachelor's degree, and nearly 64 percent have advanced degrees, with 31.7 percent holding doctoral degrees and 31.9 percent holding master’s degrees
  • NREL employees contributed $478,052 to local nonprofits while logging 1,529 volunteer hours
  • The laboratory welcomed more than 28,000 visitors to its campus and Education Center, and connected with more than 43,000 people through community outreach events.

A significant element of NREL’s impact is tied to jobs, with the greatest number of the laboratory’s employees located in Jefferson County, which saw a $413 million economic impact in FY 2017. The research team notes that more than 95 percent of NREL’s employees live in the Denver and Boulder metropolitan statistical areas, and that the Golden-based research laboratory is a top 10 employer in Jefferson County.

“NREL positions Jefferson County and metro Denver as a leader in the energy industry,” said Kristi Pollard, president and chief executive officer of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation. “The lab’s highly skilled workforce, innovative facilities, and business partnerships are key to the region’s economic vitality.”

NREL also is focused on workforce development and, according to the study, the laboratory hosted 122 science, technology, engineering, and math outreach events in FY 2017, directly impacting 11,123 students and 330 teachers. NREL employed 175 student workers during the same fiscal year, further contributing to the science and technology workforce of the future.

NREL continually seeks to expand its impact by working with academia, as well as the public and private sectors. In FY 2017, NREL had 739 active partnership agreements with 513 partners. During the same fiscal year, NREL signed $80 million in new partnership agreements.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

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