Despite looser regulations on coal power plants, tariffs on solar imports and more disbelief in climate change science than ever before, jobs in clean energy are on the rise – and show no signs of slowing. In fact, clean energy jobs in the U.S. now outnumber fossil fuel jobs by 3-to-1.
In every state, jobs in energy efficiency, renewables and clean vehicles are growing and contributing to a healthier, more sustainable society. According to Environmental Entrepreneurs’ (E2) 2019 Clean Jobs report, more than 110,000 new clean energy jobs were created in 2018, bringing the national total to 3.26 million. That’s a 3.6 percent increase over the year prior, and nearly three times the number of jobs in the fossil fuel industry.
Biggest Growth Sector: Clean Vehicles
Transportation is America’s greatest source of carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, electric vehicles (EVs) offer the most hope when it comes to decarbonization. In fact, some experts believe that when properly deployed, EVs can contribute to at least 1 percent of the cumulative global emission reductions needed to meet the two-degree Celsius target.
Driven by the desire to save money on gasoline and reduce pollution, the demand for EVs continues to soar. A new study reveals three out of four Americans believe EVs are the future, as they cite additional benefits like lower vehicle maintenance and a quieter ride.
Last year, EV sales surpassed the 1 million mark in the U.S., thanks to rebates and subsidies, plus an uptick in charging infrastructure. As more EV options become available and the price of lithium-ion batteries decreases, we can expect more Americans to make the change to electric. 2019 marks the first year that the average range of battery for all models will surpass 200 miles, making these vehicles more practical for longer trips.
The growing consumer demand has led to a 16 percent job increase in clean vehicles – the biggest boost all sustainable job sectors. Today, there are about 254,000 Americans who work at a company that builds hybrid, electric and/or other clean vehicles. Another 486,000 employees work in clean vehicle manufacturing, to ensure these vehicles remain safe, fuel-efficient and reliable.
Second Largest Growth Sector: Clean Energy Storage
Clean energy storage (not to be confused with general energy storage, which can include energy harvested from traditional power plants) is booming. The demand for a cleaner grid and reliable renewable power has led to countless innovations in this realm. As the adoption of alternative energy increases, consumers want to be able to run their residential renewable power the same way they’ve always run coal-fueled electricity. Aside from addressing the intermittency of solar and wind, storage solutions make the grid more responsive and decrease the need for backup power plants.
As extreme weather becomes more common, grid resiliency is more crucial than ever. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods can cause widespread power outages for extended periods if backup energy is limited or unavailable. For example, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and 1.4 million residents lost power, it took almost a year for electricity to be restored.
In response to extreme events such as these, clean energy storage broke records in 2018. Battery installations totaled 311 megawatts and 777 megawatt-hours, nearly doubling the capacity installed the year prior, reports Energy Storage Monitor. As for Puerto Rico, the territory’s new utility plan calls for up to 900 megawatts of storage capacity over the next four years. Overall, clean storage capacity is expected to double again in 2019, and reach an astonishing 3.9 gigawatts (GW) by 2023.
Combine this growth with surges in the EV market, and it’s no wonder energy storage jobs are soaring. The sector saw a 14 percent increase last year as businesses and utility companies deployed more batteries in EVs and alongside wind and solar systems than ever before.
Greatest Decline: Solar (But Prepare for a Powerful Comeback)
Although 29 states experienced growth in solar jobs last year, the solar industry as a whole took a hit for the second year in a row. The Trump Administration’s talk of tariffs on solar imports began in 2017, and went into effect in 2018, creating a plague of uncertainty. Utility-scale developers were the most apprehensive, delaying larger projects and contributing to a 3.2% decline in solar jobs in 2018, according to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Job Census.
But ever since China, the largest solar panel supplier, cut prices on its products to essentially negate Trump’s tariffs, solar developers have started regaining confidence. They’re buying the equipment needed to take advantage of the last year the 30 percent federal tax credit is available. The Solar Foundation projects that solar jobs should rise by 7 percent this year, totaling nearly 260,400 by the end of 2019.
Clean Energy Job Growth Will Continue to Climb
Despite the impact of the Trump Administration’s tariffs, the climate change naysayers, and the planned rollbacks on environmental policies, clean energy jobs increased across the map. The success further proves that green jobs are here to stay, thanks to advances in energy-efficient technologies and the public’s desire to save money on fuel and electricity.
As more states commit to 100 percent clean energy goals, we can only expect to see more job opportunities in renewables, green building and clean transportation – for now and in the foreseeable future.
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