The Promise of a Bright Future and Strong Economy

Summary:

Driven by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis, Colorado experienced its first decline in clean energy jobs in 2020 since E2 began tracking the industry with this methodology in 2017. Colorado’s clean energy economy employed more than 58,000 workers at the end of 2020, down from 62,400 the year before, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data and the findings of a national survey of more than 35,000 businesses across the U.S. economy.

By May of last year, more than 7,500 clean energy workers in Colorado had lost their jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading widely, according to monthly analysis of unemployment data by E2 and partners.2 Since the sector’s losses peaked at the end of May 2020, jobs grew back by 6 percent. In fact, by the end of 2020 more than about 40 percent of the clean energy jobs lost between March and May had been regained, leaving the sector down about 7 percent (about 4,200 jobs) since COVID-19.

Thanks to smart state climate policy leadership, Colorado’s clean energy economy has proven to be a core part of the state’s economy—representing more than 2 percent of overall state employment. It has been resilient and robust in the face of crushing economy-wide pressures.

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Findings

  • Colorado’s Clean Vehicles sector, made up of Hybrid Electric Vehicles, PlugIn Hybrid Vehicles, Electric Vehicles, Natural Gas Vehicles, and Hydrogen & Fuel Cell, grew almost 6 percent over the previous year, as automakers increasingly shift to cleaner and more efficient electric cars, trucks, and buses. With smart policies, Colorado can be a center for innovation and high-tech manufacturing in this sector.
  • The most significant sector decline was in the Energy Efficiency sector, where the pandemic curtailed in-person engagement with customers.
  • The total clean energy generation sector ended the year with a 3 percent loss. Wind and solar gained jobs, while geothermal, bioenergy/combined heat & power and low-impact hydro took the hit in job losses.

Colorado Clean Energy Employment, 2020

Energy Efficiency 32,595
Renewables 17,324
Clean Vehicles 3,392
Storage and Grid 2,912
Clean Fuels 1,959
TOTAL 58,182

Policies Matter

Colorado’s landmark bill that passed and became law in 2019, Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution (HB19-1261),4 and was strengthened during the 2021 legislative session, requires the state to reduce 2025 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent, 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent and 2050 greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90 percent of the levels of statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that existed in 2005. In 2021, HB21-1266 defines disproportionately impacted communities, requires engagement of those communities, and creates staffing, task forces, and boards focused on addressing environmental justice. These two laws inform how agencies are required to meet the GHG reduction goals, in with equity and justice at the forefront.

Several agency commissions are continuing to promulgate rules. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is developing rules to affect utilities that provide retail electricity. The Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) is developing rules to curb emissions in the oil and gas sector and together with the Colorado Department of Transportation Commission are designing rules to electrify transportation, increase transit, walking and biking options, and reduce individual Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).

The 2022 legislative session should continue to address GHG emissions, as well as reduce waste, improve recycling, support renewable energy and regional transmission, improve monitoring emissions of oil and gas operations, and other policies in support of the environment and the clean economy.

Background

This is the fourth annual Clean Jobs Colorado report produced by E2 based on analysis of the USEER, which was first released by the DOE in 2016. E2 was an original proponent of the DOE producing the USEER and was a partner on the reports produced by the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) after the Trump administration abandoned it in 2017.

For additional insight into E2’s Clean Jobs Colorado or our other annual clean energy economic reports, visit e2.org/reports.

An FAQ is available at e2.org/reports/clean-jobs-america-faq.

Previous Reports

Clean Jobs Colorado 2021 is the 5th clean energy jobs report for California from E2. Previous reports can be accessed in the below links.

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