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December 1, 2020
We voted, and our voice was heard. In just 51 days, President-Elect Joseph R. Biden will be inaugurated as the next President of the United States. Hopefully, he will fulfill his promises to address social justice and advance renewable energy as a source of energy independence and economic (and job!) growth. Biden needs to help us push forward America’s two fastest-growing jobs, wind technician and solar installer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In recent history, solar has endured multiple battles with the expiration of the Investment Tax Credit, Section 201 tariffs, and COVID-19. And we may now add the Trump Administration to the list of adversities we’ve successfully overcome!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken the time to further evaluate clean energy production to the parallels of job growth in wind and solar. Last year, solar alone generated $19B for the US economy and accounted for 40% of all new electrical capacity (SEIA). 2019 also marked the first time that the US consumption of clean energy exceeded coal since 1885 (US Energy Information Administration).
The fact is that solar energy production is booming across residential, commercial, and utility sectors; however, job growth is flat. Even with COVID-19 delays in production lines, permitting, and construction, all sectors will grow in 2020 over last year.
From 2012 to 2016, solar jobs grew 118% under the Obama Administration. Adversely, the only year in which solar jobs grew under Trump leadership was 2019 (2.3%) according to the National Jobs Census. And there are actually less people employed in solar now (250,000) compared to 2016 (260,000) – a 4% loss in job creation. (I’m not sure how SEIA predicted that we would have 302,000 solar workers by June of 2020, but they did, and they are including this number into the COVID-19 job loss category.) To me, this means that the solar industry was over-performing with a skeleton crew. While some jobs were added, most organizations were conservative about job growth because of uncertain times. In fact, since Biden was declared a winner three weeks ago, we’ve seen an uptick in companies looking to add staff as fast as possible.
Conversely, wind energy jobs have grown under the Trump Administration – from 88,000 in 2016 to 120,000 in 2020. Maybe because the majority of wind farms are in “red states” or maybe because 77% of Trump supporters also support wind energy? Or maybe because the Section 201 Tariffs hit job growth in solar really hard? Regardless, 36% job growth over a 4-year period is above the national average.
I am predicting that onshore wind, offshore wind, solar, and energy storage will see double-digit growth each year under the Biden administration. Of course, I will continue to monitor the employment market in clean energy and report more industry data each month.
If you’d like to have a discussion about the effects of the pandemic on your hiring strategy, please reply to this email to set up a meeting with me. If you are currently exploring a new job in your renewable energy career, we invite you to have a look at our careers portal. If you’re looking to hire top talent in manufacturing, project development, finance, construction, operations, or energy asset management professionals, reach out to us today.