Renewable energy jobs are booming across America, creating stable and high-wage employment for blue-collar workers in some of the country’s most fossil fuel-heavy states, just as the coal industry is poised for another downturn.
Economics are driving both sides of this equation: Building new renewable energy is cheaper than running existing coal plants and prices get cheaper every year. By 2025, almost every existing coal plant in the United States will cost more to operate than building replacement wind and solar within 35 miles of each plant.
Multiple states and utilities are setting 100% clean energy goals, creating new demand for workers to build solar panels and wind turbines. Planning for the inevitable coal-to-clean economic transition can create new economic opportunities in every corner of the country – and some forward-thinking policymakers are already heeding this lesson.
Engineers and technicians lower the rotor and blades off of the turbine at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center.
The renewable energy industry has become a major U.S. employer. E2’s recent Clean Jobs America report found nearly 3.3 million Americans working in clean energy – outnumbering fossil fuel workers by 3-to-1. Nearly 335,000 people work in the solar industry and more than 111,000 work in the wind industry, compared to 211,000 working in coal mining or other fossil fuel extraction. Clean energy employment grew 3.6% in 2018, adding 110,000 net new jobs (4.2% of all jobs added nationally in 2018), and employers expect 6% job growth in 2019.
E2 reports the fastest-growing jobs across 12 states were in renewable energy during 2018, and renewable energy is already the fastest-growing source of new U.S. electricity generation, leading the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to forecast America’s two fastest-growing jobs through 2026 will be solar installer (105% growth) and wind technician (96% growth).