New York state added more than 7,000 jobs in the clean energy sector in 2021 as the industry is being looked to as a key pillar in the drive to transition away from carbon-based fuels in the coming decades. 

A report released Tuesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul and state officials found New York's clean energy jobs increased from 157,686 to 165,055 between 2020 and 2021 -- a time period that was also marked by the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The jobs numbers were part of the newly released Clean Energy Industry Report, which assessed the state of the sector and showed a faster recovery than other areas of the economy like retail and education in the wake of the pandemic. Tempering this success, however, is New York's relatively sluggish job growth since March 2020 compared to the rest of the country.

New York must meet stringent goals set in law to transition to cleaner and more renewable forms of energy by the midpoint of this century in order to reduce its carbon emissions. The move will mean deep changes in how New Yorkers power their homes and what kind of cars, buses and trucks are used on the road.

Skepticism from energy producers, however, abounds over how New York will be able to make the leap in the energy transition without increases in utility bills and other disruptions.

"This year's Clean Energy Industry Report shows what I have always known to be true of New Yorkers - that we are resilient, and we keep moving forward in the face of adversity," Hochul said. "Although COVID-19 greatly impacted the entire economy over the last few years, we have seen how the clean energy industry has led the way in our recovery. More New Yorkers than ever before are employed with family-sustaining clean energy jobs and are actively helping New York build a workforce that can meet the demands of the future."

The clean energy report also found employment in the sector surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels by the end of 2021. So-called alternative transportation technology saw sharp jobs growth as well between 2020 and 2021 amid a push to expand electric vehicle usage and car charging stations.

That sector saw an increase of 26% in jobs, growing by 2,318 workers in the last 12 months.

Solar energy that saw the largest jobs gains in renewable energy. Solar farms lost about 400 workers between 2019 and 2020, but the sector came back with an additional 1,000 jobs between 2020 and 2021.

State and federal officials are spending heavily to encourage growth in the clean energy economy, pouring billions of dollars into efforts to expand wind and solar farms as well as electric vehicle fleets and the infrastructure needed to sustain them.

Voters, too, approved a $4.2 billion bond act that is also meant to encourage stronger environmental infrastructure and improve waterways and sewer systems, among other areas.

"Establishing a strong clean energy workforce goes hand in hand with advancing the vital work that needs to be done across all industry sectors to meet our ambitious climate goals," said New York State Energy and Research Development Authority President Doreen Harris. "We certainly can't have one without the other, and this year's report shows that we continue to establish the building blocks needed for green jobs so that New York families - all across the state - can participate in and benefit from our transition away from fossil-fuels to clean energy."