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Clean-Energy Job Growth Continues to Lag

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More than 454,000 clean-energy workers in energy efficiency, manufacturing and business still are unemployed. (brizmaker/Adobe Stock)
More than 454,000 clean-energy workers in energy efficiency, manufacturing and business still are unemployed. (brizmaker/Adobe Stock)
November 12, 2020

NEW YORK -- Three of four clean-energy workers who lost their jobs at the beginning of the COVID pandemic still are out of work, according to a new report.

The study from E2, E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy said almost half a million clean-energy workers nationwide have lost their jobs since the end of last year. That includes solar- and wind-energy installers, factory workers and building-efficiency contractors.

October marked the fourth straight month of less than 1% job growth in the clean-energy sector.

Philip Jordan, vice president of BW Research Partnership, which produced the report, believes the ongoing pandemic is a major factor in the slow rebound.

"Getting the virus under control is critically important because a lot of these jobs depend on people going to buildings to work," Jordan explained. "They depend on feeling comfortable and safe allowing contractors to come into your home or your office."

He added uncertainty about the pandemic's overall impact on the economy and about the federal government's commitment to reducing carbon emissions also are slowing the recovery.

New York has fared much better than most states. Only 8.1% of clean-energy workers remain unemployed. Jordan contended that's because businesses and investors have more confidence that those jobs will last.

"There's been a very clear communication of New York's continued commitment to its climate goals, and New York has worked very hard to keep the virus under control," Jordan remarked.

More than 40 states continue to have unemployment rates of 10% or more in the clean-energy sector, and in five states, the rate is more than 20%.

Action on the federal level also is critical. Jordan pointed out clean energy can be a major source of the jobs needed to rebuild the economy, and infrastructure is key.

"Expanding federal programs for things like weatherization, direct money into energy efficiency and buildings, favorable and financeable tax credits for renewables, and then grid modernization and modernization of ports, particularly around offshore wind areas," Jordan outlined.

He noted a federal clean-energy jobs program would provide good-paying jobs to the working class while helping meet the carbon-reduction goals needed to combat climate change.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY