Employees in the wind, solar, and electric transmission jobs have higher rates of people of color than the petroleum, natural gas, and coal industries. (Ronda Churchill/Nevada Current)
Nevada’s communities of color are benefiting from major federal investments in clean energy related projects, according to a new report.
According to the Department of Energy’s latest energy and employment report, the clean energy workforce is more diverse than other energy sectors. Employees in the wind, solar, and electric transmission jobs have higher rates of people of color than the petroleum, natural gas, and coal industries.
And clean energy projects in Nevada are following the trend, according to a new Climate Power report.
Nevada ranks fourth, behind Georgia, South Carolina, and Arizona, for the most new clean energy jobs in communities of color, with 11,500 jobs and $9.14 billion investment, according to the report.
“Clean energy is helping drive Nevada’s economy, and the Inflation Reduction Act is creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs for workers in every corner of our state,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in a statement.
Nevada’s sprawling second congressional district has the most new energy-related jobs in communities of color in the nation. The district has pulled in 10,450 new clean energy jobs, translating to $9.02 billion in investment.
Nationally, 66% of new clean energy jobs and 74% of projects across the United States are located in communities populated by a large percentage of racial and ethnic groups, according to the report.
“The administration’s clean energy plan is a great first step in ensuring America’s clean energy boom is accessible to communities of color,” said Antonieta Cadiz, deputy executive director of Climate Power En Acción.
Economists say workers in clean energy jobs earn higher and more equitable wages compared to all workers nationally. Hourly wages for clean energy jobs can exceed national averages by 8% to 19%, according to a report by Brookings.
Many of those jobs and investments, however, are attached to controversial lithium mining projects that have attracted messy legal battles.
Climate Power reports the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Esmeralda County has generated 900 jobs. The project faces regulatory hurdles due to a rare desert wildflower native to the state being listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project would overlap the only known habitat of the rare wildflower, Tiehm’s buckwheat, degrading nearly 40% of its federally designated critical habitat and risking its extinction in the wild.
Climate Power’s report also includes 1,500 jobs and $650 million in investment for the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine near the Nevada-Oregon border, by Canada-based Lithium Americas. Earlier this year, the mine won a significant legal challenge, overcoming a major hurdle to its construction and operation. The mine faces fierce opposition from conservationists and Native American tribes, who consider the area sacred.
Nevada’s place as a future battery manufacturing and minerals production powerhouse also helped the state build its energy sector.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $2 billion loan commitment to Redwood Materials to build and expand a $3.5 billion battery materials campus in McCarran. The company estimates the expansion will create 3,400 construction jobs and 1,600 permanent jobs. The company also expanded its Storey County campus, creating 700 new jobs and $1.1 billion in investments.
California-based Lilac Solutions, a lithium extraction technology company, was awarded a $50 million grant award from the DOE last year to advance domestic lithium production, a project that will create 250 new jobs and invest a total of $179 million in the state.
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