Increasing Number and Positive Nature of Clean Energy Jobs for the Clean Energy Transition
The “Rewiring America” group calculated that we can eliminate 70-80% of carbon emissions by 2035 by transitioning to clean energy, using existing technologies that we already have, and not requiring any massive lifestyle changes for our US citizens (see more about “Rewiring America” below). By doing this, we’re saving money, creating millions of new jobs, replacing jobs lost by shutting down fossil fuels, and protecting our air and water. International Renewable Energy Association stated:
“The shift to renewables would create more jobs in the energy sector than are lost in the fossil fuel industry. The REmap [base] Case would result in the loss of 7.4 million jobs in fossil fuels by 2050, but 19.0 million new jobs would be created in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and grid enhancement and energy flexibility, for a net gain of 11.6 million jobs.”
E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) groups US clean energy jobs for 2019 into seven categories, with the total job count listed at the end:
- Energy Efficiency – 2,324,865 jobs
- Renewable Energy – 508,484 jobs
- Solar Energy – 334,992 jobs
- Wind Energy – 111,166 jobs
- Clean Vehicle – 253,599 jobs
- Clean Storage – 74,569 jobs
- Grid Modernization – 64,377 jobs
- ALL US Clean Energy Sectors – 3,264,383 jobs
Many have claimed that clean energy jobs will never pay enough to replace fossil fuels jobs, but this has found to be false. Another E2 report entitled “Clean Jobs, Better Jobs” from October 2020 reports:
- Median hourly wages for clean energy jobs overall are about 25 percent higher than the national median wage.
- Clean energy jobs are more likely to come with health care and retirement benefits than jobs across the rest of the private sector.
- Unionization rates for clean energy jobs are slightly higher than the rest of the private sector, with a few exceptions.
- Overall, median salaries for clean energy jobs are much higher than jobs in sectors such as retail, service and accommodations, especially when it comes to entry-level wages and for Americans just entering the workforce.
- Clean energy job salaries are also comparable—in some cases better—than fossil fuel job salaries. Jobs in coal, natural gas and petroleum fuels pay about $24.37 an hour, for instance, while jobs in solar and wind pay about $24.85 an hour. Similarly, jobs in energy efficiency—the biggest part of America’s energy sector—come with median salaries of about $24.44.
- Clean energy occupations also had higher rates of health care coverage, and virtually all enjoyed comparable or better retirement benefits than the national average.
- Finally, the clean energy industries’ 9 percent unionization rate is higher than the 6 percent unionization rate across the rest of the private sector, but varies by occupation.
—Clean Jobs, Better Jobs 2018
The recent “Rewiring America” study by energy experts proposes a technically and financially feasible “World-War-II-Style Mobilization” decarbonization strategy:
- The maximum feasible transition (MFT) involves two primary stages: (i) an aggressive WWII–style production ramp–up of 3–5 years, followed by (ii) an intensive deployment of decarbonized infrastructure and technology up to 2035. This includes supply–side generation technologies as well as demand–side technologies such as electric vehicles and building heat electrification. (Rewiring America)
- …Within three to five years, production of electric vehicles would have to increase four-fold, batteries 16-fold, wind turbines 12-fold, and solar modules 10-fold.
- Accommodating all those new electricity loads would also mean expanding the size of the grid by three- or four-fold. “Today, we deliver about 450 gigawatts constantly,” says Griffith. “In the model of the future — where everyone’s house is the same size, everyone’s car is the same size, but it’s all electrified — you need to deliver 1,500 to 2,000 gigawatts.” Almost all the heavy lifting in the maximum feasible transition is done by electrification. (Vox, 2020)
This “Rewiring America” renewable energy and electrification strategy results in:
- Creating 25 million jobs at peak and 5 million permanent jobs,
- Total US energy demand reduced by half,
- Eliminating 70-80% of US carbon emissions by 2035,
- Reduced costs to consumers by $1000-2000/year.
Many, many other studies have shown similar technical and financial feasibility. The main holdup is political will. From “Rewiring America:”
“A 100% adoption rate is only achieved by mandate. The invisible hand of markets is definitely not fast enough; it typically takes decades for a new technology to become dominant by market forces alone as it slowly increases its market share each year. A carbon tax isn’t fast enough, either. Market subsidies are not fast enough.”
An analysis of clean energy employment from September 2019 is available at The Climate Economy’s website: “Clean Energy Jobs Now and in the Future – Job Numbers and Human Welfare Going Up as We Work To Reduce Emissions.”