Job losses damper fast-growing sector that employed 537,000 Californians at end of 2019

  • 1 in 5 Californians employed in January 2020 by clean energy now out of work
  • Before COVID-19, 3% of overall employment statewide, and 30% of state construction workers, employed in clean energy

Sacramento (June 25, 2020) – As Congress and state policymakers consider stimulus measures for clean energy and other sectors of our economy, a new study shows 536,919 workers were employed in clean energy in California at the end of 2019. According to Clean Jobs California 2020, clean energy has developed into a core state industry that employs 3% of the state’s workforce. At the end of 2019, more Californians worked in clean energy than worked as schoolteachers or in biotech combined – and six times more than work in fossil fuels. California’s clean energy economy – shepherded by strategic state policy – is a national powerhouse employing one out of every six U.S. clean energy workers nationwide.

But after five years of consistent growth, the clean energy industry is now shedding jobs at alarming rates because of COVID-19 and the economic downturn, according to a separate analysis of Department of Labor data by E2 and partners.

Since March, almost 110,000 clean energy workers have filed for unemployment in California, including over 4,300 new claims filed in May, according to the analysis. California continues to shed more clean energy jobs than any other state, losing 1% of its workforce in May and 20% to date. Regions across the state have suffered significantly alongside the state overall since March with Los Angeles County losing the most total jobs (18,667) and Kern County losing the largest share of its clean energy workforce (35.2%) than any other county nationally. Nationwide, more than 620,000 clean energy workers have filed for unemployment. For a full breakdown of clean energy jobs losses in each sector and for every state, see the full analysis here.

Given the size and scope of the clean energy industry, such sustained losses would cast a pall on California’s – and the nation’s – overall economic recovery. As Clean Jobs California 2020 shows, clean energy provides jobs across hundreds of occupations – including electricians, HVAC technicians, lighting professionals, factory workers, solar and wind installers – and across numerous sectors of California’s economy, including construction, manufacturing, transportation, finance and agriculture.

According to E2, Congress and the Trump administration – along with state leaders – should take quick and substantive action that can get clean energy workers back on the job today and rebuild our economy back better, cleaner and faster for tomorrow. Support through economic stimulus funding and other measures are particularly important to the region’s small businesses. As Clean Jobs California 2020 shows, nearly 58% of California’s clean energy workforce were employed by businesses with fewer than 20 employees and about 2 out of every 5 clean energy jobs in California are in regions outside of the San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles, and San Diego metro areas.

Andy Wunder, Western States Advocate of the national, nonpartisan business group E2 said:

“The policy leadership that nurtured California’s rise as a clean energy powerhouse can help us build back faster and stronger than before. Strategic state investments and policy direction can catalyze a recovery that gets the 109,000 construction workers, electricians, factory workers, and other clean energy workers in California who lost their job back to work quickly, all while leveraging the private investment needed for California to meet its long-term climate goals.”

Jordan Ramer, Founder & CEO of El Segundo-based EV Connect said:

“2019 was a growth year for my company as we expanded our workforce and brought in additional funding. COVID-19 not only stalled this progress but set us back, with widespread shut-downs and closures forcing projects to be delayed, slowed down, or cancelled altogether.  Smart policy can leverage the private investment needed to get California workers and businesses back to work building our zero-carbon transportation future.”

Mark Hall, Founder of Oakland-based Revalue.io said:

“COVID-19 has upended our work schedule and caused significant disruptions in our project pipeline. That’s impacting firms like mine and the more than 300,000 Californians who worked in energy efficiency at the end of 2019. California lawmakers should immediately invest in the Low-Income Weatherization Program and other proven programs to drive good paying, blue collar employment while reducing energy costs for Californian communities.”

Losses Eliminate Growth Across Key Sectors

STATE CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
Sector Q4 2019 Employment Unemployment Claims Since March
Energy Efficiency 323,529 65,369
Renewables 142,957 29,349
Clean Vehicles 40,627 8,688
Grid & Storage 24,021 4,963
Clean Fuels 5,785 1,343
TOTAL 536,919 109,712

California’s largest clean energy employer, energy efficiency, has been the hardest hit by the crisis—losing 65,369 jobs or over 20% of its total workforce. In 2019, the sector grew to 323,529 jobs.

Nationally energy efficiency has accounted for nearly 70% of all clean energy job losses. In California, almost 60% of clean energy unemployment filing were by energy efficiency workers.

California’s renewable energy generation sector was also severely impacted, losing 29,349 jobs or over 20% of the total workforce. Advanced transportation lost 8,688 jobs in factories that manufacture electric and hybrid vehicles and the parts that go in them, accounting for over 21% of the total workforce.

Further detailed breakdowns of California’s clean energy economy are available in Clean Jobs California 2020, available at www.e2.org/cleanjobsca —  including job totals for every California county, metro area, and legislative district.

Background:

The Clean Jobs California 2020 report is the third iteration of the annual employment analysis. The report expands on data from the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) produced by the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), using data collected and analyzed by the BW Research Partnership. The report was released in March 2020 and is available at www.usenergyjobs.org. E2 is a partner on the USEER, the fifth installment of the energy survey first released by the Department of Energy in 2016 and subsequently abandoned under the Trump administration. 

Additional Resources:

Previous Clean Jobs California Reports:

Previous E2, E4TheFuture, ACORE Clean Energy Unemployment Reports

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Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital. For more information, see www.e2.org or follow us on Twitter at @e2org.

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