California's RPS Generating Thousands of Clean Energy Blue-Collar Jobs

California’s aggressive climate policies — combined with the sheer size of its economy — have helped it create the most clean energy jobs of any state in the country, according to a new study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

The report, The Link Between Good Jobs and a Low Carbon Future, says the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) — California’s principal climate policy — has created 25,500 blue-collar job years — or around 53 million hours of blue-collar construction work. Many of these jobs have been created in regions of the state where they are most needed, with high unemployment and low income.

Between 2002 and 2015, 11,234 megawatts of new RPS-compliant generation capacity have been built in the state. Almost all of the large-scale renewable projects are built under project labor agreements, which provide union pay rates, health insurance and pension programs for all workers, whether or not their employers are union.

Conversely, the renewable energy construction industries in states such as Texas or Arizona are more commonly non-union, provide lower wages, do not participate in apprenticeships, and lack healthcare and retirement benefits.

“What’s unique about California is that the boom in renewables has created quality jobs that lead to real careers,” said Betony Jones, associate chair of the Donald Vial Center and a co-author of the report, said in a statement. “These are not just jobs to get by. Workers on these projects are getting health care, pension contributions, and paid comprehensive training that leads to career stability.”

In October 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 350 into law, committing California to increasing its RPS to 50 percent and doubling energy efficiency savings by 2030. This means that RPS-spurred job growth in California likely will continue well into the next decade.

Big Brands Embrace Renewables

The nation’s largest companies are rapidly embracing renewable energy sourcing and greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts, according to a 2014 report from Calvert Investments, Ceres, David Gardiner & Associates, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). These efforts increasingly are becoming the new “business as usual” among many of the country’s largest companies, with 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies having set targets in at least one of three categories: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency, and procuring more renewable energy.

Some 60 percent of the Fortune 100 have goals for renewable energy or greenhouse gas reductions. Through these initiatives, the 53 Fortune 100 companies reporting on climate and energy targets have collectively saved $1.1 billion annually and decreased their annual carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 58.3 million metric tons — the equivalent of retiring 15 coal-fired power plants. Companies from** Apple** to** REI** already are recognizing the advantages of embracing renewable energy to their bottom lines.

Clean Energy Key to Implementing the Paris Agreement

The landmark international climate change nearly 195-nation agreement that came out of COP21 late last year sent a message to the world that a low-carbon future is imminent. The Paris Agreement, for the first time, brings all nations into a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities. Its main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The 1.5 degree Celsius limit is a significantly safer defense line against the worst impacts of a changing climate.

Amping up investments in renewable energy also is an important strategy for meeting the international carbon emissions reductions established by the Paris Agreement at COP21. Months before world leaders met in Paris last December, one of President Obama’s senior advisors called renewable energy the “key” to climate action in a blog post discussing the United States’ official greenhouse gas emissions-cutting target to the United Nations. The proposal formalizes a U.S. commitment to reducing emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.


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