Clean Energy Jobs a pathway to decent work for California’s disadvantaged workers; plus economic benefits of California’s climate policies

Three recent studies from University of California at Berkeley provide evidence of the job benefits of clean energy industries.  The first,“Diversity in California’s Clean Energy Workforce”, from Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education Green Economy Program, claims to be the first quantitative analysis of who is getting into apprentice training programs and jobs on renewables. It states that  “ Joint union-employer apprenticeship programs have helped people of color get training and career-track jobs building California’s clean energy infrastructure”.   The authors attribute this to the recruitment efforts by unions, as well as the location of many renewable power plants in areas where there are high concentrations of disadvantaged communities.  It  presents data for the ethnic, racial and gender composition of enrollment in apprenticeship programs in 16 union locals for electricians, ironworkers and operating engineers. The report finds significant variation in racial and ethnic diversity amongst  unions,with women’s participation minimal, (ranging from 2 – 6%) in all cases. Uniquely, the study also examined the impact of clean energy construction on disadvantaged workers, finding that  43% of entry-level workers live in disadvantaged communities, and 47% live in communities with unemployment rates of at least 13%.  Further, it states:  “Most large-scale renewable energy plants have been built under project labor agreements. These agreements require union wage and benefit standards and provide free training through apprenticeship programs.”

Two other reports were released by the Center for Labor Research and Education, the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at UC Berkeley Law,  and advocacy group Next 10.   The Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs on the San Joaquin Valley: Analysis through 2015 and Projections to 2030 (January)   and  The Net Economic Impacts of California’s Major Climate Programs in the Inland Empire: Analysis of 2010-2016 and Beyond  (August)  examine the impact of climate programs on  California’s most environmentally vulnerable regions.  The “Inland Empire” (defined as the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside) report , examined four key policies: cap and trade, the renewables portfolio standard, distributed solar policies and energy efficiency programs.  These policies were found to have brought a net benefit of $9.1 billion in direct economic activity and 41,000 net direct jobs from 2010 to 2016 .  Policy recommendations to continue these benefits:  “reward cleaner transportation in this region; help disburse cap-and-trade auction proceeds in a timely and predictable manner; and create robust transition programs for workers and communities affected by the decline of the Inland Empire’s greenhouse gas-emitting industries, including re-training and job placement programs, bridges to retirement, and regional economic development initiatives.”

The three reports were released to be part of the public debate about extending the cap and trade legislation (passed in July) and about California’s Senate Bill SB100 , which passed 2nd reading in the legislature on September 5.  SB100 would toughen existing targets to  60% renewable electricity by 2030, and  require utilities to plan for 100% renewable electricity by 2045 .

Jobs in Renewable Energy: the importance of Community Ownership, and the growth of good union jobs under California’s policies

At the end of June, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative (TREC) released a report outlining the environmental, social, and economic benefits of locally owned and operated renewable power. The Power of Community  calculates the direct and indirect economic impacts of a solar FIT community project and  SolarShare power projects in Ontario since the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, and emphasizes the superior results when projects involve community ownership and participation. The TREC report cites a 2016 report published by the Community Energy Association, QUEST, and Sustainable Prosperity.  Community Energy Planning: The Value Proposition — Environmental, Health and Economic Benefits   reported that, for every $1 million invested in building energy efficiency retrofits, over 9 person-years of permanent employment would be created within the province of Ontario.  The  TREC  report also cites a 2014 study by Institute for Local Self Reliance, Advantage Local: Why Local Energy Ownership Matters,  which states that community owned projects in the U.S. generally generate twice the number of jobs as commercially-run projects.

The Link Between Good Jobs and a Low Carbon Future ,  released in June by the Don Vial Center on the Green Economy at Berkeley’s Labor Center , examines large-scale clean energy construction projects in California.  The key finding of the report is that these projects are creating high-paying, long-lasting blue-collar jobs, the majority of which are unionized.  The report provides data measuring the quantity of job creation, but also pension and health insurance contributions as well as apprenticeship enrollments for the period 2002 – 2015. The situation is credited  to California’s unique Renewables Portfolio Standard, which allows for  Project Labor Agreements ( PLA’s) between employers and building trades unions.  Read the summary here .