Pandemic stalls state’s clean energy job growth, report says
Solar panels at the Copper Mountain Solar 3 Facility just outside Boulder City. (Nevada Current file photo)
Solid growth in Nevada’s clean energy economy was expected in 2020 but the pandemic led to a year-long setback, shedding jobs as a stalled recovery plagued the sector.
In 2020, Nevada renewable energy employment was projected to increase by 4.3 percent, adding about 1,500 jobs – a rate almost twice as fast as the overall economy grew in 2019. However, an analysis by E2 Clean Jobs America, a business group, shows that 11 percent of the pre-covid clean energy workforce who lost their jobs due to the pandemic are still unemployed.
The report was created using data from the U.S. Energy and Employment Report and produced by Energy Futures Initiative in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials using data collected from by BW Research Partnerthip.
More than 3,700 former clean energy employees remain out of work since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, according to E2’s latest monthly analysis of unemployment data.
Nevada has the two hardest-hit regions in the country in terms of renewable energy job losses. The renewable energy workforce in Southern Nevada, had the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, with 31 percent of workers still without a job. Reno-Sparks is slightly better, with 27 percent of the sector’s workers unemployed.
The report projects that at the current rate of recovery it would take four years for Nevada to recover to its pre-pandemic clean energy employment levels.
Despite the sector’s lack of growth, the report’s authors argue that the Biden administration should double-down on America’s clean energy transition.
Relief legislation making its way through Congress appropriates nearly $100 billion in renewable energy investments, which is estimated to create more than 7, 800 jobs and generate $3.1 billion in economic activity over five years in Nevada.
In 2019, Nevada’s clean energy economy added over 1,500 jobs, adding to more than 33,700 workers across the state, employing one in 50 workers and more than half of all energy jobs.
That growth was mostly driven by the energy efficiency, energy storage, and renewable energy sectors.
Nevada’s clean workforce had the tenth-highest private unionization rate in the nation in 2019 at 9 percent, significantly higher than the national private sector average of 6 percent.
According to the report in 2019, Hispanic and multiracial ethnicities accounted for 46 percent of Nevada’s clean energy workforce. Hispanic or Latino workers accounted for over 18 percent while Asian, Black, or multiple-racial workers made up more than 8 percent each.
The report applauds efforts by policymakers in Nevada to get at least 50 percent of the state’s electricity generated from renewable sources like solar, wind, and geothermal by 2030.
The report also recommends clean energy advancement in the transportation sector, now the largest contributor of emissions in Nevada, by adopting California’s Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) and Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards and adopting the Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) rule, which requires truck makers to sell an increasing number of clean, zero-emission trucks.
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