Democrats’ climate bill would create a rush for clean energy workers

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

Driving the news: The plan – if enacted – would fund more renewable energy, the manufacture of clean energy equipment, the installation of household heat pumps and efficiency improvements, electric vehicles, the development of hydrogen and much more.

Why is this important: This type of scaling would drive demand for workers in industries that would receive new or expanded tax subsidies and other support.

Threat level: The Princeton-led Project REPEAT, in its analysis of new projects the bill would spur, warns that the ability to hire and train a clean energy workforce is among the various constraints.” difficult to model” that can limit growth rates.

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

And after: Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President Abigail Ross Hopper said the group sees the solar and energy storage workforce quadrupling from its current level of just over 250,000. .

  • “In this tight job market, it’s a challenge — figuring out where to find those employees? How do you train them, ensuring they reflect the diversity of our nation?” she said in a call with reporters on Monday.

The big picture: Clean energy research firm Energy Innovation estimates that bill-related jobs would increase significantly in the coming years, reaching 1.5 million created in 2030.

  • The University of Massachusetts researchers estimate that the bill’s combination of tax credits, grants and loans – and the private sector capital they enable – will create an average of more than 900,000 jobs a year on 10 years.
  • Their study was commissioned by the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental groups.

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

  • “A lot of them are going to be unionized. And unions are actually pretty good at responding quickly and growing,” said Jordan, the company’s vice president who studies workforce trends. in the energy sector.
  • But he cautions: “We’re going to create a challenge when there’s a lot of activity happening in a lot of different kinds of infrastructure that need a lot of the same kinds of workers.”

Enlarge: Hopper said an important provision of the bill is the larger tax credits available for projects that meet certain learning requirements.

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

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

  • “It’s going to take investment to make sure that not only are we creating the workforce that we need, but we’re also really targeting investments in disadvantaged communities to make sure opportunities are available,” Jordan said.
  • The bill contains several provisions to address “environmental justice” — a term for addressing the heavier environmental burdens that poor people and communities of color often face.
  • One of the provisions would create tax credits specifically aimed at solar projects located in low-income communities.

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

About Elizabeth Fisk

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