A new report released today from the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says that only about 5,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the first three months of this year. That is more than a 50% decline from the same period in 2013 when 12,000 clean energy jobs were created.
This troubling trend is attributed to Congressional inaction on key clean energy tax policies, coupled with attacks on state renewable energy programs. “Congress pulled the plug on smart clean energy tax policies at the end of last year, while in the states, lawmakers are getting bullied by special interests that don’t want our country to produce more clean, renewable energy,” said E2 executive director Bob Keefe.
His statements are in line with a recent Los Angles Times report that the Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation’s largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy.
As a result of the 800 planned jobs from Aguacaliente’s 25MW project near Malta, Idaho took the top spot in the rankings. The remaining states in the Top 10 were: Texas, California, Missouri, New York, Kansas, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana. Texas’ 2nd place ranking was due to four announcements, including two
wind and one solar farm announcement with a combined capacity of 249 MW.
The solar sector accounted for only 1,400 jobs announced which was a significant decline from previous quarters where utility-scale solar saw a 2013 increase in installations of 60%. E2 believes that one of the main reasons for this slowdown is that utilities in solar-rich western states like California and Nevada are currently exceeding their mandated targets under their respective state Renewable Portfolio Standards. Due to the decline in utility-scale projects, residential solar has become the main driver of jobs in the solar industry.
The wind industry actually saw a decline in jobs during the reporting period, on top of a dismal 2013 where the American Wind Energy Association estimated a loss of almost 30,000 jobs. This decline has been blamed on the uncertainty over the extension of the PTC, which Congress ultimately allowed to expire at the end of 2013. The PTC is a federal incentive offering a per-kilowatt hour tax credit to developers of renewable generation, including wind, geothermal, and certain forms of biogas and hydropower.
Building energy efficiency jobs also saw a decline from previous years. Businesses plan to hire only 325 workers. This drop may be attributed to the recent expiration of federal tax credits supporting commercial and residential construction and retrofits, including three provisions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act:
- -Tax deduction for the construction of efficient commercial buildings (Section 179D)
- -Tax credit for the construction of efficient homes (45L)
- -Tax credit for investment in residential efficiency improvements (25C)
Bob Keefe of Environmental Entrepreneurs remains optimistic, however: “Given the muddied policy environment on clean energy, low overall jobs numbers were expected. Fortunately, it’s not too late for lawmakers to steer clean energy and clean transportation job growth back on track”.
He believes that three main opportunities exist in the coming weeks and months:
- Federal tax policy: If Congress acts now to reinstate on a long-term basis incentives like the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind, as well as other tax credits for biofuels and energy efficiency, lawmakers would have an immediate, positive impact on clean energy job growth. The longer incentives remain expired, however, the more U.S. workers will be left twisting in the wind. (The American Wind Energy Association recently noted uncertainty around the wind PTC has led to the loss of 30,000 jobs.)
- Carbon Pollution Standards: In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to unveil standards for existing power plants that will for the first time limit carbon pollution, just like the EPA has limits on other dangerous pollutants like mercury and arsenic. These new carbon limits pave the way for manufacturing and power-generation companies in clean energy and energy efficiency sectors to invest in operations and add jobs.
- State Renewable Portfolio Standards: On the state level, one of the biggest opportunities to defend or strengthen job-creating clean energy policies is in Ohio, where state lawmakers and Gov. Rob Kasich have the power to stop Senate Bill 310. By freezing efficiency and renewable energy targets, S.B. 310 threatens a state manufacturing base that ranks first nationally in wind manufacturing facilities. The E2 report also notes state RPS’s have recently been repealed in Indiana,and defended or strengthened in Kansas, New York, and Vermont.
You can read the full report here.