States formerly reliant on coal and other fossil fuels are seeing a surge in renewable energy employment as a new “Clean Jobs America” report announces that 3.26 million Americans were employed in the green energy sector in 2018, according to a recent Forbes article. There are now three people working in clean energy—with solar topping the list, at 335,000 employees nationwide—for every one person employed in fossil fuels.
The growing number of states and utilities setting high renewable targets has added to the rise, creating increased demand for workers in the solar and wind sectors. More and more, market evidence reveals that a steady drop in the cost of renewables coupled with the rising price of coal is reshaping the energy sector as companies and cities move aggressively to invest in renewables technology and infrastructure.
According to the study, clean energy employment increased by 3.6% last year as 110,000 new jobs entered the market, with 6% growth expected in 2019. Perhaps most notable was the increase in solar energy jobs in states like Alaska, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, where fossil fuel extraction has traditionally been an important employer. Promises to revitalize the coal industry have largely fallen flat, as coal jobs nationally decreased from 86,000 in 2009 to 50,000 in 2017. The trend mirrors declining coal consumption across the U.S. as more coal plants close their doors in the face of cheaper electricity from wind and solar.
According to Forbes, “even Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, the country’s largest coal-producing region, is facing this new reality. The PRB has produced 400 million tons of coal annually, but could see output fall to 175 million tons within 10 years, risking 13,000 coal-dependent jobs.” Clearly, there’s a new industry lined up to replace them as the “coal-to-clean transition” gathers steam. Clean energy jobs are offering higher wages (8%-19%) than the national average for blue-collar work. In economically hard-hit places like Appalachia, this sends a strong signal that the future of energy work is in clean energy.
What We’re Reading: “Renewable Energy Job Boom Creates Economic Opportunity as Coal Industry Slumps” published in Forbes