In case there was still any doubt that fossil fuels are on the decline, new analysis from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) confirms it: Wind and solar energy jobs now outnumber coal and gas jobs in 30 states.
In addition to providing local jobs across the country, In Demand: Clean Energy, Sustainability and the New American Workforce finds that the clean energy and sustainability economy also pays higher than average wages and offers individuals numerous career and educational pathways.
“The clean energy workforce has skyrocketed, launching us into the new clean energy economy while supporting American workers,” said Ellen Shenette, manager of EDF Climate Corps, a summer fellowship program that accelerates clean energy initiatives and spearheaded the new report. “The growth in clean energy sectors can be credited to reductions in costs, increased demand for clean energy and efficiency technologies, as well as policies and investments.”
Coauthored by Meister Consultants Group, the report also suggests a strong future for renewable energy and sustainability employment. Solar and wind installations comprised 65 percent of installed electric capacity in 2016 and for the third year in a row, exceeded the installed capacity of all other electricity sources combined. What’s more, the Bureau of Labor Statics projects that solar PV installers and wind turbine service technicians will be the two fastest-growing jobs in the United States from 2016 to 2026, roughly doubling during that period.
However, 2017 marked a year of political uncertainty at the federal level, centered on the future of renewable energy tax incentives and a potential tariff on imported solar modules. This uncertainty has so far contributed to a 22 percent decline in cumulative 2017 installations as compared to the previous year.
The report also shares the stories of three former EDF Climate Corps fellows currently working in this industry, including Ben Metcalf, a former Operations Officer for the U.S. Navy who shifted his career to focus on utility-scale solar development and now works at Galehead Development.
“Every day, I witness the many jobs – from blue to white collar positions — that support the demand for clean energy,” Metcalf said. “I’m confident that the policies over the next 12 months will not slow the market’s long-term positive outlook.”
In Demand goes onto provide recommendations for sustaining clean energy job growth, such as increasing investments in clean energy research, supporting smart climate policy and ensuring that companies set big and public greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals.
“Businesses have become key catalysts in helping drive the clean energy economy by setting goals and investing in energy efficiency technologies,” added Shenette. “Companies are recognizing that the market is demanding a low-carbon economy, and they’re seeing the benefits to their bottom lines. What business wants to bet against the market?”