Approximately 454,000 clean energy workers still unemployed despite 24,000 additions in October

Published on November 13, 2020 by Chris Galford

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A monthly analysis prepared for Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), E4TheFuture, and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) blamed federal government inaction for the 454,000 clean energy workers unemployed as of October.

The report noted that more than 40 states continue to suffer double-digit unemployment in the clean energy sector. A total of 13 percent of the clean energy workforce remains jobless. Even with 24,000 jobs added in October, the industry’s job growth remains below 0.9 percent across all sectors. October marked the fourth straight month of growth under 1 percent.

The mass joblessness stems from COVID-19, and at the current rate of recovery, researchers estimated it would take more than 18 months, well into 2023, to hit the growth once calculated for 2020. Originally, the 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report (USEER) employer survey had estimated more than 175,000 clean energy jobs would be added this year. Then the pandemic began.

“Congress returns from elections as clean energy job growth continues to stall and permanent job losses increase,” Sandra Purohit, advocacy director at E2, said. “With stimulus discussions on the table again, Congress can turn this around by passing clean energy tax extenders and making funds available directly to clean energy businesses to help with job growth immediately.”

Pat Stanton, policy director for E4TheFuture, pointed to energy efficiency as the sector heaviest hit, with 321,875 workers still out of work compared to January figures. That sector did add the most jobs in October, though, accounting for 16,800 of those added. In 2018 and 2019, clean energy as a whole added about 190,000 new jobs nationwide. Nearly 3.4 million Americans had worked in clean energy.

”The pace of recovery of renewable energy jobs lost due to COVID-19 is far too slow, with October proving to be yet another month where we gained back less than 1% of the renewable workers who lost their jobs in the pandemic,” Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of ACORE, said. “As we enter the traditionally slow winter season, our ask to Congress is an urgent one: We need temporary refundability for renewable tax credits so that projects can be completed in spite of a COVID-constrained tax equity market, and a delay in the scheduled phasedown of existing credits in recognition of the adverse nationwide impact the pandemic has had on the renewable sector this year.”

BW Research Partnership conducted all research. The data did not include employees who had their work hours reduced.