How Coronavirus is Impacting the Clean Energy Industry 

At the start of 2020, clean energy employment increased for the fifth straight year since E2 began releasing the annual Clean Jobs America reports in 2015 —growing to nearly 3.4 million workers and accounting for 2.25% of total U.S. employment. The COVID-19 outbreak has upended the entire industry’s progress—hitting every sector hard, with forecasts indicating tougher times ahead. What had been one the nation’s fastest-growing jobs sectors at the start of the year by March was experiencing significant job losses every week.

The clean energy economy has previously weathered choppy seas, but this storm is wholly different.


Before the COVID-19 crisis, nearly 3.4 million Americans worked in clean energy—solar, wind, energy efficiency, clean vehicles, and more, according to this new analysis. For perspective, that’s more people than worked as school teachers or farmers or real estate brokers in our country.

Across the entire U.S. energy sector, clean energy jobs now represent about 40 percent of the entire workforce. Clean energy accounted for more than half (55%) of the sector’s net employment growth in 2019. Not only does clean energy employ about three times the number of workers as the entire U.S. fossil fuel industry, the number of clean energy jobs added last year was nearly five times greater than fossil fuel jobs added last year.


More than 620,000 clean energy workers have lost their jobs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic meltdown. The losses wipe out all the job gains in renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean vehicles and other clean energy sectors since 2015, according to an analysis of unemployment data by BW Research for E2.

Energy efficiency workers lost their jobs after being shut out of homes and buildings; solar and wind turbine companies furloughed workers after panels and parts got stranded in shut-down factories; factory workers were let go as assembly lines for ENERGYSTAR appliances and clean vehicles went dark.


As lawmakers look to reinvigorate our economy and get America back to work, E2 surveyed its 8,000 members and supporters nationwide about how they’re being impacted, and how public policy could help.

“Projects are getting delayed because we don’t have access to buildings. This is impacting cashflow and we are potentially going to face layoffs. We are working to avoid that, and it will depend on the duration of this disruption.”

“We have terminated the employment of approximately 25 percent of our personnel. We have had over $10 million of projects halt moving forward,” impacting the jobs of at least 150 people.”

“We had 5 residential retrofit projects that were supposed to begin this week but cannot due to the shutdown, as well as 1 warehouse project. Much of our work is in workforce development, as we train high school, college and other adults in energy efficiency technology. We now have to alter our training plans and reduce our outreach and business development.”

“As I talk to banks … they are in a panic situation that I haven’t seen since 2008.”

“We are devastated by the coronavirus. Nothing we do is considered ‘critical service’ so installing energy efficiency and solar panels in California is completely shut down. We can’t go into apartment units to do energy audits or efficiency upgrades in NYC. We are facing substantial furloughs for staff and pay cuts for the ones who aren’t furloughed.”


Given the extent of the economic shutdown, getting America back to work – and in ways that create a stronger, cleaner economy in the future – requires bold ideas, big initiatives and commonsense policies at both the state and federal levels.

Congress has the chance to accelerate the clean energy transition AND drive job and economic growth for years to come. 

Lawmakers must prioritize immediate relief for the millions of workers in hard hit clean energy industries and provide stimulus support that can drive job creation and economic growth for years to come.


Sign-up to stay updated on the latest employment figures and advocacy efforts as E2 works to ensure the clean energy economy is prioritized in America’s recovery.

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