In March, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at dismantling the Clean Power Plan, a 2015 policy that had incentivized the growth of renewable energy by requiring states to lower carbon emissions. It’s unclear how effective this effort will ultimately be but, no matter what, it can’t change the reality that clean energy is a bright spot for the U.S. economy, providing more full- and part-time jobs in the electricity sector than natural gas and more than twice as many as coal. The rapid expansion of solar power jobs is particularly noteworthy, tripling since 2010.
Equally important, these are good-paying jobs that benefit people in all walks of life: solar installers earn on average $26 per hour, and wind turbine technicians – projected to be the fastest-growing occupation from 2014 to 2024 – earn on average $48,800 annually. Neither of these jobs requires a four-year college degree, and each is available to people in rural and lowincome areas. Solar and wind power also employ Hispanic or Latino people and veterans at higher rates than the overall U.S. workforce. Plus, the solar and wind sectors are winning support in diverse quarters. Farmers and cattle ranchers, for instance, like that they can continue to run their businesses while generating substantial extra revenue by leasing small pieces of their land for wind turbines.
Backing like that helps boost bipartisan support for clean energy and keep its momentum going. On February 13, a group of governors comprising twelve Democrats and eight Republicans sent a letter to President Trump asking him to “strengthen America’s energy future” by extending government support for a modernized electricity grid, offshore wind, and more research. The letter noted that 70% of U.S. wind farms are located in counties with below-average incomes, and urged that any major infrastructure bill put forth by the Trump administration include funding for an electricity grid that is more secure and can accommodate more renewable energy.
Given the foothold solar and wind power have gained in solidly red states, the president could pay a steep political price if he doesn’t heed the governors’ advice.
Reprinted with permission from Union of Concerned Scientists, Catalyst, Volume 16, Spring 2017. Read more at http://bit.ly/ics-state-report.