By Heather Reams
The American economy has faced unprecedented disruption this year, but for our clean energy and energy efficiency industries, the blow has been devastating.
As geopolitical and domestic tensions have risen, global energy demand has fallen, and this once humming economic machine of energy production, storage, and transmission has experienced crippling aftershocks across the United States.
It’s not just traditional forms of energy that have been impacted. Clean energy industries, including renewables, energy efficiency and emerging technologies like energy storage, have been hit particularly hard. In fact, since March more than 620,000 of the nation’s clean energy workers have lost their jobs, according to a recent U.S. Department of Labor analysis.
Nonetheless, disruption can also present opportunities to reassess our priorities within the broader economy, leverage resources that have not yet reached their full potential, and drive new growth.
Heading into the first quarter of 2020, clean energy was booming in the United States. The industry was coming off a remarkably transformative decade in which renewable energy was creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. The clean energy sector had grown to a workforce of 3.3 million U.S. workers employed in all but two of America’s 3,007 counties.
Fortunately, the shape of that massive economic footprint is indelible. The clean energy sectors that have been pounded, the projects that have been abandoned or interrupted, and the jobs that have been lost can almost all be recovered. We can rebuild the economy better and faster with clean energy leading the way forward. Lawmakers know this to be true, which is why the next round of stimulus legislation is expected to address energy innovation and infrastructure.
Equally important, doubling down on clean energy offers a chance for Americans to finally unite behind something in this very divisive election year. Citizens of every political stripe support the idea of investing in clean energy development to protect the environment, create jobs and strengthen national security – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. And to nearly a voter, America wants to reach this clean energy future through measured, common-sense policymaking that “leans in” to the strength of America’s unfettered innovation base – while also supporting a strong and healthy economy.
Public Opinion Strategies conducted an online survey in June of over 1,000 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide. Among the results, the study found that two-thirds (67 percent) of conservative-minded voters agreed that making investments in clean energy is important to our nation’s effort to rebuild the economy after the coronavirus shutdown. Even more Republicans (70 percent) agreed that accelerating the growth of clean energy in the United States can help the U.S. become a world leader in the competition for green economic development.
Without a doubt, there is a dynamic space for clean energy industries right now, and there is also a rare consensus of bipartisan voices surrounding it. In fact, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) recently put forth a resolution designating September 21 – 25, 2020, as “National Clean Energy Week,” and U.S. Representatives John Curtis (R-UT) and Alan Lowenthal (R-CA) introduced an identical resolution in the House.
Now in its fourth year, National Clean Energy Week (NCEW) events have convened policymakers, advocates, and private sector leaders in Washington, D.C., to break barriers and elevate the value of clean energy across our nation. This year is particularly special because the event will be virtual — allowing these impactful discussions to be heard by folks outside the Beltway. Bringing the clean energy message into every living room and home office, NCEW organizers have reinvented the occasion and created an opportunity to reach more Americans than ever before. This is critically important because the more informed citizens are, the more likely their leaders will take notice and continue fostering bipartisan cooperation around the issue.
When it comes to preserving our environment and jumpstarting the economy, we need to pursue every innovation, and that’s what National Clean Energy Week is all about. While tremendously challenging, this new economic climate presents an opportunity to stimulate growth by investing in clean energy, pursuing fiscally responsible investments in infrastructure, and reducing barriers to the execution and completion of clean energy projects that will get Americans working again. Our many policy experts participating in the events will be discussing these issues, and we invite you to join us in September at www.nationalcleanenergyweek.org.