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Repowering The US Economy With Clean Jobs

Clean energy infrastructure jobs are the key to rejuvenating the US economy, says a new report.

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Repowering the US economy with clean jobs must become a clear mandate for the US federal government. Before the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people in the US worked in clean energy. Clean energy is a major part of the economy of every state, employing workers in inner cities as well as rural areas, regardless of geography, politics. or natural resources. Small businesses—the essence of the US economy — are an integral part of clean energy employment. But despite how far the clean energy sector has come over the last 5 years, the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis is quickly devastating businesses, workers, and projects from coast to coast.

Will lawmakers step up to create stronger, cleaner economy in the future? That will require bold ideas, big initiatives, and commonsense policies at both the state and federal levels.

Repowering the US Economy

More than 1.1 million other clean energy workers are employed across agriculture, trade, distribution and transportation, professional services, and more. Those jobs alone employed as many workers as the entire fossil fuel sector in 2019. Image provided by E2: Clean Jobs American 2020 report.

A call-to-action within a new report, “E2: Clean Jobs America,” shows why it’s imperative for lawmakers to focus on clean energy in economic stimulus packages and other policies aimed at restarting the US economy. Clean energy has been one of the US economy’s biggest and fastest-growing employment sectors over the past decade, growing 10.4% since 2015.

Image provided by E2: Clean Jobs American 2020 report

However, more than 106,000 clean energy workers lost their jobs in March 2020, and analysis projects that more than 500,000 clean energy workers – 15% of the entire clean energy workforce – will lose their jobs in the months ahead unless Congress and the Trump administration take quick and substantive action.

A loss of that magnitude would erase the clean energy industry’s total job growth over the last 5 years.

Department of Labor data shows that the recent applications for unemployment benefits wipe out all 2019 clean energy job gains across renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean vehicles, energy storage, and clean fuels. Think of all the trades that have been affected:

  • electricians, HVAC and mechanical trades technicians and construction workers who work in energy efficiency
  • solar installers
  • wind industry engineers and technicians
  • manufacturing workers employed by electric and other clean-vehicle manufacturing companies and suppliers

A Plan for Repowering the US Economy

The report outlines specific Congressional actions that can get the US back to work rebuilding a clean economy.

Treasury Department should:

  • Reinstate the Section 1603 program to deliver payments directly to clean energy developers and suppliers now, rather than make them wait to claim these credits in tax filings
  • Expand the program to cover energy storage and energy efficiency projects
  • Extend federal clean energy incentive deadlines to account for COVID-19 related delays and to secure the projects and jobs relying on their funding—including “Safe Harbor” and “in construction” deadlines

Internal Revenue Department should extend, expand, and reform clean energy incentives, through the following bills:

  • H.R. 2096/S. 1142, “The Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2019
  • H.R. 3961/S. 2289, “The Renewable Energy Extension Act”
  • H.R. 4887/S. 1988, “The Offshore Wind Power Act”, and S. 1957/H.R. 3473, “The Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act”
  • H.R. 2256/S. 1094, “The Driving America Forward Act”
  • Extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind as included in the House Ways and Means Committee’s GREEN Act proposal
  • H.R. 4506/S. 2588, “Home Energy Savings Act”
  • H.R.4646/S. 2595, “New Home Energy Efficiency Act”

Department of Energy should increase funding for:

  • The Federal Loan Guarantee Program and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), to immediately spur innovation and new opportunities as the economy recovers
  • The Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides funding for cost-saving energy efficiency upgrades for low-income households. The program has supported more than 8,000 jobs and provides weatherization services to 35,000 homes every year
  • Clean energy demonstration programs, including for large-scale energy storage, advanced renewable energy technologies, clean transportation solutions, clean industrial projects, and clean hydrogen and other zero-carbon fuels
  • Advanced construction of net-zero-carbon building retrofits for low-income homes
  • Clean energy job training to help those isolated due to COVID now and to reduce unemployment and help displaced workers find new careers in clean energy during recovery. This should include increasing funding for DOE clean energy job training as well as funding community colleges and other certified institutions or organizations to create and grow clean energy training programs
  • Resurrect the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program for states that can be used to immediately launch job-intensive renewable energy projects and energy efficiency programs for K-12 schools and municipal buildings

Department of Transportation should:

  • Invest in clean cars and clean vehicle infrastructure through legislation such as the Clean Corridors Act of 2019 and the EV Freedom Act to immediately create jobs, expand the nation’s electric vehicle charging and clean fuel networks
  • Support a nationwide vehicle trade-in program to get cleaner, more efficient and cost-effective cars in production and to consumers

Image provided by E2: Clean Jobs American 2020 report

The report asks policy makers to keep in mind the benefits that will come with a cleaner, more resilient economy in the future.

  • Fixing the power grid: Estimates show that the US needs to invest $30 billion to $90 billion to upgrade transmission lines over the next decade in order to properly handle new renewable energy generation and repair aging equipment to prevent costly disasters like wildfires. Doing so could get many of the nearly 148,000 in the US who work in grid and energy storage businesses back to work and create tens of thousands of new jobs as well.
  • Building a national electric vehicle charging network: Such a network could help get the more than 160,000 in the US who work in electric and electric-hybrid vehicle industries back to work in addition to creating tens of thousands more construction jobs across the country.
  • Electrify our buildings: An estimated 70 million homes and businesses in the US rely on natural gas, oil, or propane for heating, cooking, and warming up bath water. Additionally, commercial buildings account for about 40% of all energy consumed in the US and over 1/3 of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. A nationwide program to could help put some of the nearly 2.4 million energy efficiency workers in America back to work and create tens of thousands of new jobs too. “E2: Clean Jobs 2020” recommends starting with the nation’s 98,000 public schools, especially because most are closed right now due to COVID-19. Tens of thousands of other government-owned buildings at the more than 800 US military bases also are badly in need of energy upgrades and electrification.

“E2: Clean Jobs America 2020” is a collaboration of E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), E4TheFuture, and BW Research Partnership.

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Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a Model Y as well as a Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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