WASHINGTON – Due to the hard-hitting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clean energy industry finished 2020 with its fewest number of workers since 2015. It also marked the first year clean energy saw a decline in jobs compared to the previous year.
About 16,900 jobs were added in December by U.S. clean energy businesses, leaving more than 429,000 (12% of the sector’s pre-COVID-19 work force) still unemployed, according to the latest analysis of federal unemployment filings prepared for E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), E4TheFuture and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) by BW Research Partnership.
Ten months after the nationwide unemployment crisis began, 70% of the jobs lost in the clean energy sector have yet to be recovered, according to the monthly report. At the rate of recovery since June, it would take about two and a half years for the clean energy sector to reach pre-COVID employment levels. It would take an additional year to reach the levels of clean energy employment that had been projected for 2020 before the pandemic struck.
Georgia had the second-highest number of jobs lost in the nation (26,155), according to the report, and had lost the largest percentage by far of employees at 30.3%.
Impacts of the pandemic-fueled job crisis continue to disproportionately impact women and black and Hispanic workers. Women — particularly women of color — and Hispanic workers lost jobs overall in December despite total clean energy employment growing slightly, at a rate of 0.6%.
“The new year, a new administration and a new Congress bring new hope for federal action revitalizing our economy and our environment with a clean energy focused recovery,” Bob Keefe, executive director of E2, said. “The need to act is clear. We just lived through the costliest year ever for climate disasters. And facing the largest economic downturn since 2009, we know we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to jobs and other economic benefits that come with clean energy.
“Washington must go big, go fast and go now.”
“What we witnessed in December was more like inertia than recovery for clean energy sector employment,” Pat Stanton, policy director for E4TheFuture, said. “We have a lot of work to do. The type of energy jobs that will help us to recover from losses endured in 2020 must be prioritized — and that means focusing on work force development and training in 2021.”
“December’s clean energy employment numbers can only be described as anemic, with less than 2,800 renewable energy jobs recovered and fully 12 percent of the sector’s pre-COVID work force remaining stubbornly unemployed,” Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said. “While the emergency relief provisions in the year-end spending package can help, we look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration and the new Congress to move past the endless cycle of temporary stopgap measures and finally enact the kind of comprehensive, long-term, scientifically-driven climate policy that puts millions to work building the clean energy future Americans want and deserve.”
“Clean energy had been one of the nation’s fastest growing sectors over the past five years, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Phil Jordan, vice president at BW Research Partnership, said. “In addition to clawing back the jobs we lost in 2020, we need to help the sector return to growth mode and get back to creating economic opportunities for more Americans in 2021.”