The Democrats’ Climate Law Would Spark a Battle for Clean Energy Workers

The low-carbon energy growth envisioned in the Democrats’ climate bill will come with a major challenge: finding enough skilled workers to support it.

Send the news: The plan — if signed into law — would fund more renewable energy, the production of clean energy equipment, the installation of residential heat pumps and efficiency upgrades, electric vehicles, hydrogen development and much more.

Why it matters: This kind of scaling up would stimulate demand for workers in industries that would receive new or expanded tax subsidies and other support.

Threat level: The Princeton-led REPEAT project, in their analysis of new projects that the bill would boost, warns that the ability to hire and train clean energy personnel is one of several “hard to model” constraints limiting growth rates. can limit.

  • Philip Jordan of BW Research, a company that studies workforce trends, said labor shortages are already a problem in clean energy industries.

What’s next: Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association Association (SEIA), said the group is seeing its solar and energy storage workforce quadruple from its current level of just over 250,000.

  • “In this tight labor market, that’s a challenge – figuring out where to get these workers? How do we train them so they reflect the diversity of our country?” she said during a conversation with reporters on Monday.

The big picture: The clean energy research firm, Energy Innovation, estimates that the jobs associated with the bill will grow strongly in the coming years, to 1.5 million created by 2030.

  • Researchers at the University of Massachusetts estimate that the mix of tax credits, grants and loans in the bill — and the private sector capital they enable — will create more than 900,000 jobs a year on average over a 10-year period.
  • Their research was commissioned by the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of trade unions and environmental groups.

What they say: Jordan, of BW Research, said the biggest job gains will come in the construction and installation of equipment such as wind turbines, energy efficiency upgrades, transmission, battery storage, solar panels and other areas.

  • “A lot of them will be unionized. And unions are actually pretty good at meeting needs and expanding quickly,” said Jordan, a VP at the company that studies energy workforce trends.
  • But he warns, “We’re going to create a challenge when there’s a lot of activity going on in many different types of infrastructure that require many of the same types of workers.”

Zoom in: Hopper said a key provision in the bill is the larger tax credits available for projects that meet certain apprenticeship requirements.

  • She said they would give property developers incentives to train new employees.
  • Erika Symmonds, SEIA’s VP for equity and workforce development, said that in places where the solar industry is already very active, there are “templates or partnerships with employers for training that we will need to multiply and replicate in other places.”
  • She said coordination between government, employers, schools and others will be important.
  • The bill also includes provisions for workforce development, such as funding for state programs to train contractors on energy efficiency and electrification at home.

What we look at: How the new jobs are distributed, not just how many there are.

  • “Investment will be needed to ensure that we are not only creating the workforce we need, but we are really focusing on investing in underserved communities to ensure that opportunities are available,” Jordan said.
  • The bill includes several provisions to address “environmental justice” – a term for addressing the greater environmental burdens that poor people and communities of color often face.
  • One of the provisions would create tax credits specifically targeting solar projects in low-income communities.

It comes down to: “I’m cautiously optimistic that the federal government and states and municipalities will plan accordingly for what’s to come,” Jordan said.

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