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Pandemic Hits U.S. Renewable Workforce Hard

Nearly 500,000 people who worked in the renewable energy industry, lost their jobs in the U.S. since the pandemic has started. The recovery continues slower than originally anticipated.

Image: PixabayImage: Pixabay

The latest analysis of U.S. federal unemployment filings, prepared for E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) by BW Research Partnership, shows gruelling numbers. The workforce is still 477,862 jobs short as a slow recovery plagues the sector.

Despite normally growing two times faster than the overall economy since 2017, the clean energy sector has been particularly slow to rebound compared to the nation’s overall jobs recovery. Just one out of every five clean energy jobs lost between March and May has come back, according to the latest figures. Renewable energy saw only 12,500 jobs added in September, leaving almost 14% of its pre-COVID-19 workforce unemployed, the analysis says.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus still ravages the U.S. amidst the preparations for the Presidential Election in November. It's also a political question as Donald Trump is known to favour fossil fuels. Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), said: “The hard-hitting impacts of COVID-19 continue to roil the renewable energy workforce. To keep that unemployment number from rising further, our ask to Congress is simple and urgent: We need temporary refundability for renewable tax credits so that projects can continue to be built in spite of a COVID-constrained tax equity market, and a delay in the scheduled phasedown of existing credits in recognition of the adverse nationwide impact the pandemic has had on the renewable sector this year.”

While it is a well-known fact that investments in renewable energy create three times more jobs than investments in fossil fuels, it is also a known fact that the amount of money spent on clean energy is not the same as that spent on fossil fuels. In the U.S. alone, the energy efficiency, solar, wind and clean vehicle industries grew 70 percent faster than the rest of the economy between 2015 and 2019, employing three times as many workers as the real estate, banking and agriculture sectors. Renewable energy companies expected to add over 175,000 jobs this year alone, following up on a record number of 190,000 new jobs in 2018 and 2019.

"Virus? What virus?!" (Image: Pixabay)

Nevertheless, it looks like the current government is in no hurry to speed up the process of recovery. Only last month, Donald Trump announced the extension of a moratorium on offshore drilling in the states of Florida, Georgia and the two Carolinas. Originally intended as an environmental protection measure to prevent further drilling for oil and gas, the ban also affects the offshore wind industry, as the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) of the Department of the Interior has now confirmed, according to Bloomberg. The decree is due to come into force on 1 July 2022 and will apply for 10 years meaning that during this period, the affected states will not be able to free up more land for lease sales and develop an offshore wind industry.

This comes in a time when more than 40 states still suffer double-digit unemployment in renewable energy, with six states seeing unemployment of 20% or more. Georgia continues to have the highest rate, with over 31% of its clean energy workforce still unemployed, followed by Kentucky at 28%, as ACORE points put. North Carolina led all states with the highest percentage of workforce growth at 0.7% while California again saw the largest total increase in jobs with 2,600 positions added (0.6%). No other state added over 1,000 clean energy jobs; only New York, Texas, and Illinois added more than 600. Ten states added fewer than 50 jobs each.

Phil Jordan, Vice President and Principal at BW Research Partnership, warns: “The data show another month of anemic growth in the clean energy sector. Job growth will need to accelerate much more rapidly to get to ‘rebound’ territory.” And at the moment, it is still unclear what will happen if the second COVID-19 wave hits the U.S.

Windfair Editors
USA, COVID-19, workers, clean energy, industry, unemployment, Corona, renewable energy, state, economy, job loss, ACORE, analysis, recovery, President

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