US Clean Energy Corps To Pursue Climate Resilience

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A new program launched by the Biden administration will hire 1,000 people in the US to help expand the country’s clean energy infrastructure, a step the White House says is “critical to achieving the president’s goal of 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.” The Clean Energy Corps will draw from engineering, physical science, legislative affairs, and contract management sectors in its multi-disciplinary work.

The creation of the Clean Energy Corps represents the largest expansion of the DOE’s workforce in nearly half a century. The department is looking to hire “first-time job seekers, executives, and everyone in between” via its new employment portal.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) called the creation of the corps “a great step” toward expanding the use of renewable energy and significantly reducing the country’s carbon emissions. Essential to that expansion is addressing climate resilience across intersecting domains.

Adopting a Climate Resilience Toolkit

No single entity is sufficient to meet the nation’s vast energy needs. To achieve the efficiencies and economies of scale that are required, the US acknowledges it must build a public-private partnership — a “resilience ecosystem” — that enables cooperation instead of competition and a “siloed” mindset. A resilience ecosystem theory of change states that unless substantial large-scale action is taken to address these and other climate-related risks, the impacts on human and natural systems are likely to continue and worsen this century.

Consequently, municipalities are seeing large and growing demands for energy-focused support tools, expertise, and funding.

The Resilience Ecosystem (RE) is an open and inclusive community of public and private entities working individually and collectively to help communities and businesses in all US regions and sectors to adapt/build resilience to climate-related hazards. Federal and non-profit entities are committed to sustaining organizational and financial support for it, but the RE is not an entity, organization, or professional society — it is only successful through collaboration.

The Resilience Ecosystem aims to achieve 4 ultimate outcomes:

  • Accelerate and grow the number of adaptation / resilience-building actions taken in communities and businesses all across the nation
  • Provide equitable access to the resources and decision services needed to reduce climate-related risks among all U.S. populations
  • Reduce loss of life and damages to human and natural systems from extreme events
  • Strengthen the US economy and increase job growth in adaptation science and services

The Clean Energy Corps & The Building a Better Grid Initiative

Large-scale projects of the Clean Energy Corps will include the administration’s Building a Better Grid initiative. Building a Better Grid will work with community and industry stakeholders to identify national transmission needs and support the build-out of long-distance, high voltage transmission facilities. Goals include making the US power grid more resilient to the impacts of climate change, increasing access to affordable and reliable clean energy, and creating US jobs across industry sectors.

The Building a Better Grid initiative will be funded by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which passed last year. The effort signals the latest effort by the Biden administration to utilize the powers of the executive branch to meet set climate action goals, even as Democrats’ Build Back Better Act remains stalled in Congress. The administration’s focus on the transition to clean energy but has been stymied but conservative Democrats intransigence, particular that of Senator Joe Manchin (D-Coal).

The DOE will assemble the Clean Energy Corps to mirror the diversity within the US and ensure the inclusion of workers who have lived in communities impacted by climate change. DOE is seeking candidates with interest in leading the clean energy transition through the following industries:

  • Program and Portfolio Management
  • Project Management
  • Engineering
  • Physical Science
  • Grants/Contract Management
  • Legal
  • Information Technology/Cybersecurity
  • Safety and Occupational Health
  • Business Administration
  • Finance/Accounting
  • Human Resources
  • Public Policy
  • Communications
  • Legislative Affairs

Together, these can boost transmission jobs, a sector which currently employs over one million workers across the country. “There are people in the C-suite that we need to attract to DOE, but there are also people in more junior legislative, policy, and project management roles,” Tarak Shah, chief of staff at the Energy Department, told The Climate 202. “So we’re looking for people who have just graduated all the way to people who have been in the energy business for a long time.”

Through 2028, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the two fastest-growing jobs in the United States will be solar installers (projected to grow by 105%) and wind technicians (projected to grow by 96%).

Transformational Changes to US Energy Sector

“It’s truly a remarkable time to be at the Department of Energy as we set off to implement the historic $62 billion in clean energy investments,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “The launch of our Clean Energy Corps is the latest definitive step along our path to making transformational changes to America’s energy sector and ensuring a clean energy future for all. We’re calling on people of all backgrounds and career levels who understand the urgency of tackling climate change now, and are eager to join the team that is best positioned to do so.”

That clean energy future will be led by solar and wind, which have dominated new power plant builds in the US in recent years, while fossil fuel plants — particularly coal-fired plants — continue to be retired at record pace. The precipitous drop in the cost of utility-scale solar and onshore wind has made them the cheapest sources of power in two-thirds of the world.

New transmission lines will deploy solar and wind power to communities across the US and make the energy grid more “safe, reliable, and resilient” to extreme weather events, according to language in the Act.

Dan Reicher, who was assistant Secretary of Energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy under President Bill Clinton, noted that staffing levels at the Energy Department dropped under President Donald Trump, whose administration prioritized the production of fossil fuels. “It’s not easy to hire that number of people, and particularly folks who have some background in what this money is going to be spent on,” Reicher said. “So to the extent there’s a challenging side of this, it’s the hiring.”

The number of permanent employees at the Energy Department fell from 13,911 at the beginning of Obama’s second term to 12,461 at the end of Trump’s presidency.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, 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 Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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