Jobs Panel Talks About Challenges and Opportunities
September 26, 2018

The NCEW 2018 Symposium’s first expert panel, “Clean Energy Jobs: Growth and Projections,” set a decidedly optimistic tone for the day’s festivities. The panel was moderated by Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) President Lisa Jacobson.

The panelists began simply by talking about the impressive jobs numbers in their respective industries, all of which are growing at rates faster than the rest of the economy. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) Executive Director Bob Keefe noted that the clean energy sector now supports over 3 million jobs, which is more than the banking and real estate industries and about equal to the number of educators in the country.  About 2.25 million of those jobs are in energy efficiency industries, a story E2 is telling through its research, including the recently released Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report and Clean Jobs Cities report outlining the Top 50 Metro Areas for clean energy jobs.

The panel discussed the diverse workforce that account for those jobs. For example, Maggie Lemmerman of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) noted that her industry’s 106,000 workers including a broad range of expertise including a number in manufacturing, project development, and construction, as well as owner-operators, major utilities, and corporate purchasers.

All of the panelists touched upon the challenge of meeting the workforce needs. Ms. Lemmerman noted that her industry hires 72 percent more veterans than other sectors. American Petroleum Institute Senior Economist Bryan Just explained veterans already have the skills necessary to boost the industry. He expects one million veterans will be leaving the military over the next few years, and many of them will end up in a clean energy job.

Other panelists echoed the sentiment and discussed the need to recruit a new generation of skilled workers. Emily Duncan of National Grid focused on the private sector’s investment in STEM education, explaining that her industry is heavily involved with graduate development, summer internships, engineering pipeline programs. Her team participates in numerous career fairs at college and university conferences and veterans events, and even takes initiative through community-based programs.

Of course, these jobs would not exist without aggressive investment, and that is driven by having the right policies in place. Mr. Keefe explained that state policies are as or more important than federal policies, singling out Iowa as a leading clean energy state that was the first to have a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

The panelists agreed that having the right policies in place is critical for investment because it provides business predictability. Ms. Lemmerman said that the Production Tax Credit is a good example; it had made long-term investment decisions difficult year to year, but in 2016 it received a five-year extension, and even though it was being phased out, the orderly process made supported predictability that attracts investors.

Finally, the bipartisan spirit was a key theme as well, which is reflected in the rest of the schedule of today’s Symposium.

“Red, blue, purple, explained Mr. Keefe. “Clean energy knows no partisan bounds.”

View the full panel here: