The 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report found that the U.S. Traditional Energy and Energy Efficiency sectors employed “approximately 6.7 million Americans or 4.6% of a workforce of roughly 147 million” in 2018, an increase of 2.3% from the previous year. Of these, solar and wind employed a total of 343,000 full-time workers, though solar jobs declined 3.2% and wind jobs increased 3.5% from 2017 to 2018.
Battery storage, an essential sector to the clean energy transition, grew 18% in 2018. Energy efficiency jobs also grew 1.6% in 2018 to almost 1.3 million.
“Green jobs” including jobs in sectors relating to zero emission energy generation, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and others vary greatly across the economy in wages and requirements for level of educational attainment. According to a Brookings report published in 2020, any clean energy occupations “pay higher wages while posing lower formal educational barriers to entry compared to all jobs nationally.” Solar PV installers and construction laborers average pay close to the national mean of $25 per hour and lack stringent higher education and training requirements, while environmental engineering jobs are often highly specialized but pay almost twice the national average.
Despite the positive outlook for growth following 2018, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has forced the U.S. economy into a recession and threatened the stability of the American workforce, wiping out five years of job growth in sectors like solar energy. We need strong policies to grow green jobs and promote economic recovery.
An Oxford University report released earlier this summer highlights both the need and opportunity to incorporate green industry into COVID-19 economic recovery globally, identifying specific policies including clean physical infrastructure, building efficiency retrofits, investment in education and training, natural capital investment, and clean R&D. In the U.S., many areas identified in the report are fertile ground to grow green jobs and expand the industry.
In particular, as states and municipalities ramp up clean energy targets with goals of cutting power emissions to net zero by 2035, solar, wind, and other renewable energy providers will be in high demand. State-level programs like Massachusetts’s Clean Energy Accelerators can support growth of small businesses to provide these services and fund operations, management, and clean energy scholarships.
At the national level, progress on creating “green jobs” as part of broader economic recovery efforts has largely been stymied as economic recovery proposals have failed to pass.
In the 2020 Presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s climate plan proposes an investment of U.S. $2 trillion over four years in clean energy jobs and infrastructure to create economic opportunities and strengthen infrastructure while also tackling climate change.
Activity Rating: ** Standing Still
Without targeted federal investment to support growing green jobs and economic recovery, the U.S. is failing to fulfill its potential and will fall globally behind.
Send a message to your Members of Congress asking them to include green jobs incentives in COVID-19 economic recovery.
Dear [Member of Congress],
We are facing two tremendous challenges: COVID-19 and climate change. We can address them together, and build back better with green jobs and climate-friendly infrastructure – but we need strong federal support to succeed. Please include incentives for clean energy, buildings, vehicles, and infrastructure jobs in all COVID-19 economic recovery.
Find your Representative and their contact information here.
Find your Senator and their contact information here.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard US Country Manager Stephanie Gagnon