Getting America Back to Work: Rebuilding the Clean Energy Economy

Clean energy sector and the 3.4 million jobs it supports is at risk of collapse without immediate support.

As America’s government and markets deal with this unprecedented challenge, clean energy investments present the twin benefits of immediately protecting what had been one of the fastest-growing U.S. job sectors (11% since 2015) while accelerating infrastructure improvements that promote broader, lasting economic recovery across every state and metro. For a list of specific policies Congress can include in any ongoing economic recovery and stimulus programs, see E2’s letter to Congressional Leadership from 3/20 below.

LESSONS FROM THE GREAT RECESSION

As lawmakers and policymakers look to get America back to work and restart our economy, they should remember: No part of the 2009 stimulus legislation (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) was more successful than the $90 billion the federal government invested in clean energy. That package:

// 100,000 new clean energy projects that put construction workers back to work

// Weatherized 1 million homes, getting energy efficiency workers back on the job

// Provided grants to jump-start nearly 500 new transformational clean energy companies

// Provided loans to help companies open new factories and start new businesses – companies such as 45,000-employee Tesla Inc.

// Tripled the amount of solar and wind energy in America

// Drove innovation that brought down prices for solar, wind, energy efficiency, saving consumers and businesses billions of dollars along the way.

POLICIES THAT WORK

E2 recommends Congress take the following critical actions to jump start our economy and get America’ clean energy economy back to work:

// Reinstate the Section 1603 program to deliver payments directly to clean energy developers and suppliers now, rather than make them wait to claim these credits in tax filings. And expand the program to cover energy storage and energy efficiency projects.

// Extend federal clean energy incentive deadlines to account for COVID-19 related delays and to secure the projects and jobs relying on their funding funding—including “Safe Harbor” and “in construction” deadlines.

Extend, expand and reform clean energy incentives, through the following bills:

// H.R. 2096/S. 1142, “The Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2019”

// H.R. 3961 and S. 2289, “The Renewable Energy Extension Act”

// H.R. 4887/S. 1988, “The Offshore Wind Power Act”, and S. 1957/H.R. 3473, “The Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act”

// H.R. 2256/S. 1094, “The Driving America Forward Act”

// Extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind as included in the House Ways and Means Committee’s GREEN Act proposal

// H.R. 4506/S. 2588, “Home Energy Savings Act”; H.R.4646/S. 2595, “New Home Energy Efficiency Act”.

Increase funding for:

// The Federal Loan Guarantee Program and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), to immediately spur innovation and new opportunities as the economy recovers.

// The Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides funding for cost-saving energy efficiency upgrades for low-income households. The program has supported more than 8,000 jobs and provides weatherization services to 35,000 homes every year.

// Clean energy demonstration programs, including for large-scale energy storage, advanced renewable energy technologies, clean transportation solutions, clean industrial projects, and clean hydrogen and other zero-carbon fuels.

// Advanced construction of net-zero-carbon building retrofits for low-income homes.

// Clean energy job training by funding community colleges and other educational institutions specifically to create training programs for displaced workers looking for new careers in clean energy.

// Resurrect the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program for states that can be used to immediately launch job-intensive renewable energy projects and energy efficiency programs for K-12 schools and municipal buildings

// Invest in clean cars and clean vehicle infrastructure through legislation such as the Clean Corridors Act of 2019 and the EV Freedom Act to immediately create jobs, expand the nation’s electric vehicle charging and clean fuel networks

// Support a nationwide vehicle trade-in program to get cleaner, more efficient and cost-effective cars in production and to consumers.

BIG IDEAS FOR LONG-TERM GROWTH

Big infrastructure projects have always helped America recover from economic calamity—whether it was the Pacific Railroad Act that helped get America back to work after the Civil War or the highway and public works programs that brought the United States out of the Great Depression. Making sure clean energy infrastructure projects are a major part of any economic recovery policies is essential to restarting our economy.

Fixing our power grid is one place to start. Estimates show that America needs to invest $30 billion-$90 billion in upgrading our transmission lines over the next decade in order to properly handle new renewable energy generation and repair ageing equipment that will prevent costly disasters like wildfires. Doing so could get many of the 148,000 Americans who work in grid and energy storage businesses back to work and create tens of thousands of new jobs as well.

Building a national electric vehicle charging network – such as in the Clean Corridor Act of 2019 and the EV Freedom Act – would create thousands of jobs in clean vehicles (266,000 today), in addition to creating tens of thousands more construction jobs across the country

With more than 98,000 public schools, averaging more than 40 years old, sitting vacant. Energy efficiency workers should be upgrading them now—creating long-term savings for communities and school districts everywhere. Additionally, tens of thousands of buildings at America’s 800 military bases need updating and replacing, and clean energy workers can get to work on them now.

On the electric vehicle front, more than 480,000 school buses and hundreds of thousands of military vehicles could be replaced with EVs, driving growth in clean vehicles that will save critical funds  communities will need in the long run while helping the economy in the immediate.

An estimated 70 million American homes and businesses rely on natural gas, oil or propane for heat, cooking and warming up bath water and commercial buildings account for about 40 percent of all energy consumed in the United States and over one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions. A nationwide program to electrify our buildings could help put the some of the nearly 2.4 million energy efficiency workers in America back to work and create tens of thousands of new jobs too.

COVID-19’s & AMERICA’S CLEAN ENERGY WORKFORCE

At the start of 2020, America’s clean energy workforce accounted for more than one out of every 50 U.S. workers.

Clean energy has been one of the U.S. economy’s biggest and fastest-growing employment sectors over the past decade, growing 10.4 percent since 2015 to nearly 3.4 million at the end of 2019. Clean Jobs America 2020  found the industry accounted for more than half of the entire energy sector’s job growth in 2019 and has added jobs 70% faster than the overall economy the last five years. That made clean energy by far the biggest employer of workers in energy occupations, employing nearly three times more workers than the fossil fuel industry.

But all that growth came to a screeching halt in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The 620,000 layoffs across every U.S. state are a testament to the size and scope of the industry and how badly the clean energy industry has been hit and will continue to be impacted by the crisis until Congress and the Trump administration take quick and substantive action.

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