Wind and solar companies perform poorly re labour and human rights

On November 1, the Centre for Business and Human Rights Resource Centre released the 2nd edition of its report: the Renewable Energy & Human Rights Benchmark 2021 Report. Although the report notes some improvements from the inaugural 2020 edition, the Centre states that the “ overall results remain profoundly concerning, with companies scoring an average of just 28%.”  In the past 10 years, the Centre has recorded over 200 allegations linked to renewable energy projects, including land and water grabs, violation of the rights of Indigenous nations, and the denial of workers’ rights to decent work and a living wage. Only 2 companies in the survey guaranteed the right to a living wage.  

The wind and solar sectors accounted for 44% of the total allegations of abuse. The Key Findings for the Wind and Solar sectors report includes analysis, and makes recommendations for corporations and investors. For corporations, the key recommendation is: “Set a clear and urgent goal to implement human rights and environmental due diligence in operations and supply chains, alongside access to remedy, with special emphasis on land and Indigenous rights risks.”

Renewable energy jobs continue steady growth to 12 million jobs worldwide, but more government intervention is recommended

In its first annual review published in 2013, the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) estimated 7.3 million people were directly and indirectly employed in the industry in 2012. According to the latest newly-released edition Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2021, that number has grown to 12 million people employed in 2020. Solar PV, both large and small-scale, is the largest sector, providing 4 million jobs. Wind energy now employs 1.25 million people, with an increasing number of people in operations and maintenance and in offshore wind energy sector.  Only a fifth of wind energy workers are women, compared to 32% women in the whole renewable energy sector. In addition to detailed information about jobs, skills, and demographics, the report discusses policy needs, particularly for a just energy transition, and highlights IRENA’s modeling of the employment implications of energy transition scenarios to 2050. 

The report concludes with the policy discussion of what kinds of jobs and skills will be required, the need for decent jobs, and for urgency: “A speedy and co-ordinated approach requires governments to take on a much more proactive role, acting in the public interest and safeguarding broad social imperatives. This may occur through regulations and incentives, public investment strategies, and public ownership of transition-related assets and infrastructure (both at national and community levels).”

Renewable Energy companies seen as barriers to a successful public energy transition

Recent issues of New Labor Forum include articles promoting the concept of energy democracy, and bringing an international perspective.  In “Sustaining the Unsustainable: Why Renewable Energy Companies Are Not Climate Warriors” (New Labor Forum, August),  author Sean Sweeney argues that renewable energy companies “are party to a “race to the bottom” capitalist dynamic that exploits workers – citing the example of alleged forced Uyghur labour in China-based solar companies, and the offshoring of manufacturing for the Scottish wind industry. He also argues that “large wind and solar interests’ “me first” behavior is propping up a policy architecture that is sucking in large amounts of public money to make their private operations profitable. They are sustaining a model of energy transition that has already shown itself to be incapable of meeting climate targets. In so doing, these companies have not just gone over to the political dark side, they helped design it.”   

The theme of the Spring New Labor Forum was  A Public Energy Response to the Climate Emergency , and includes these three articles: “Beyond Coal: Why South Africa Should Reform and Rebuild Its Public Utility”; “Ireland’s Energy System: The Historical Case for Hope in Climate Action”; and Mexico’s Wall of Resistance:  Why AMLO’s Fight for Energy Sovereignty Needs Our Support .

The author of Sustaining the Unsustainable is Sean Sweeney, who is Director of the International Program on Labor, Climate & Environment at the School of Labor and Urban Studies, City University of New York, and is also the coordinator of  Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED).  In August, TUED convened a Global Forum, “COP26: What Do Unions Want?”   – with participation  from 69 unions, including the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC), the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), the UK’s Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), and Public Services International (PSI). Presentations are  summarized in TUED Bulletin 111, (Aug. 18), and are available on YouTube here .  

Covid-19 causes decline in solar, clean energy jobs in the U.S.

The 11th annual National Solar Jobs Census was released by the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association on May 6, reporting that 231,474 people worked across all sectors of the  industry in 2020 – a 6.7% decrease from 2019.  The decrease in jobs is attributed to the impacts of Covid-19, as well as an increase in labour productivity – up 19% in the residential sector, 2% in the non-residential sector and 32% in the utility-scale sector.  Thus, despite employing fewer workers, the solar industry installed record levels of solar capacity in 2020, with 73% of installations in “ Utility-scale installations”.   

According to the 2020 Solar Jobs Census, 10.3% of solar workers in the U.S. are unionized, above the national average and compared to 12.7% of all construction trades. The report offers details about demographic, geographic, and labour market data – for example, showing an improvement in diversity in the workforce. Since 2015, it reports a 39% increase for women, 92% increase for Hispanic or Latino workers, 18% increase for Asian American and Pacific Islander workers, and a 73% increase for Black or African American workers.   Wages for benchmark solar occupations are provided, showing levels similar to, and often higher than, wages for similar occupations in other industries.  

The 2020 Solar Jobs Census defines a solar worker as anyone who spends more than 50% of their working time in solar-related activities. It is a joint publication of the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Solar Foundation, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and BW Research Partnership. It uses publicly available data from the 2021 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER), produced by BW Research Partnership, the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO).  Solar is included in their reports, which cover the  broader energy industry (The U.S. 2020 Energy & Employment Report  and the supplementary report, Wages Benefits and Change) .

The reported decrease in solar jobs is also consistent with the message in Clean Jobs America 2021 , published  by E2 Consultants in April. That report found a decrease in total clean energy jobs from 3.36 million in 2019 to 3 million at the end of 2020, although despite the decline, the report states: “clean energy remains the biggest job creator across America’s energy sector, employing nearly three times as many workers as work in fossil fuel extraction and generation.”   The report includes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle manufacturing in their coverage.    

Wind and solar PV will surpass coal and natural gas by 2024, according to latest IEA forecast

The International Energy Agency released another of its flagship reports in November: Renewables 2020: Analysis and Forecast to 2025.  This comprehensive report focuses in turn on each of: renewable electricity, renewable heat, solar pv, wind, Hydropower, bioenergy, CSP and geothermal, and transport bioenergy.  Overall, the report forecasts global energy demand is set to decline by 5% in 2020, and although all other fuels will decline, overall renewable energy demand will increase by 1%, and renewables used for generating electricity will grow by almost 7% in 2020.  The report provides statistics and comments on the impacts of Covid recovery policies.

Some highlights:   “The renewables industry has adapted quickly to the challenges of the Covid crisis…. Supply chain disruptions and construction delays slowed the progress of renewable energy projects in the first six months of 2020. However, construction of plants and manufacturing activity ramped up again quickly, and logistical challenges have been mostly resolved with the easing of cross-border restrictions since mid-May.” As a result, the IEA has revised its May 2020 forecast of global renewable capacity additions upwards, and forecasts a record expansion of nearly 10% in 2021 for new renewable capacity, led by India and the EU.  Other eye-catching statements:  “ Solar PV and onshore wind are already the cheapest ways of adding new electricity-generating plants in most countries today… Overall, renewables are set to account for 95% of the net increase in global power capacity through 2025…..Total installed wind and solar PV capacity is on course to surpass natural gas in 2023 and coal in 2024. Solar PV alone accounts for 60% of all renewable capacity additions through 2025, and wind provides another 30%. Driven by further cost declines, annual offshore wind additions are set to surge, accounting for one-fifth of the total wind annual market in 2025.”

The Renewables 2020 website is here ; a 9-page Executive Summary is here .

Annual review of Jobs in Renewable Energy, with gender analysis

The 2020 Annual Review of Renewable Energy and Jobs was released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) on September 20 , showing a total of 11.5 million jobs globally in renewable energy in 2019  – led by 3.8 million jobs in the Solar photovoltaics (PV) sector, (a third of all renewable jobs) and 1.2 million in wind power.  Asia accounted for 63% of total jobs in renewables, and China alone accounted for 38%.   The report provides statistics regarding the subsectors, country case studies and geographic analysis, gender analysis, and growth trends.  In addition, this year’s review includes a special feature highlighting the importance of education and training policies to avoid skills shortages as renewable energy continues to expand. IRENA’s press release summarizes the highlights.

The 2020 Annual Review continues the gender analysis begun with their 2019 publication, Renewable Energy: A Gender Perspective .  The 2020 Review repeats the gender balance comparison between renewables and the fossil fuel industry, as first reported in the 2019 report:  32% of renewables jobs held by women, as compared to 22% in fossil fuels .  

Related reports include Wind Energy: A Gender Perspective (2020) by IRENA, and the Status Report on Gender Equality in the Energy Sector, published in September by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and C3E. The report  summarizes statistics on women in management, women on Boards of Directors, and women in STEM, covering a full range of energy companies, such as Exxon, Shell, and Encana as well as Canadian Solar, Eskom, and Vatenfall. C3E is an abbreviation for “Clean Energy, Education and Empowerment” and is part of the Equal by 30 campaign, launched in 2018 at the 9th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in Copenhagen. Members include Canada, Italy, Sweden, Finland, UK, USA, Japan, Germany, France, and more than 80 energy companies.

Global reports call for renewables to lead a green recovery from Covid-19

Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019 was released on June 2 by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), showing that “more than half of the renewable capacity added in 2019 achieved lower power costs than the cheapest new coal plants.” The analysis spans around 17,000 renewable power generation projects from around the world, and includes discussion of job impacts in the industry. A statistical dashboard is searchable by country  , including Canada, and by jobs statistics.

The report emphasizes the importance of renewables in a global economic recovery strategy, stating:

“Renewables offer a way to align short-term policy action with medium- and long-term energy and climate goals.  Renewables must be the backbone of national efforts to restart economies in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. With the right policies in place, falling renewable power costs, can shift markets and contribute greatly towards a green recovery.”

On June 10, the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report was released by the U.N. Environment Programme, with a press release  with a similar message:  “As COVID-19 hits the fossil fuel industry, the GTR 2020 shows that renewable energy is more cost-effective than ever – providing an opportunity to prioritize clean energy in economic recovery packages and bring the world closer to meeting the Paris Agreement goals. ….. In 2019, the amount of new renewable power capacity added (excluding large hydro) was the highest ever, at 184 gigawatts, 20GW more than in 2018.” The 80-page Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment  is an annual report commissioned by the UN Environment Programme in cooperation with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance, produced in collaboration with Bloomberg NEF, and supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety.

The argument for the cost advantage of clean energy is demonstrated with detailed modelling for the United States by researchers at the University of California Berkeley Goldman School of  Public Policy. Their new report,  2035: The Report: Plummeting solar, wind and battery costs can accelerate our clean electricity future  “uses the latest renewable energy and battery cost data to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of achieving 90% clean (carbon-free) electricity in the United States by 2035. “The 90% Clean case avoids over $1.2 trillion in health and environmental costs, including 85,000 avoided premature deaths, through 2050”… and “ supports a total of 29 million job-years cumulatively during 2020–2035. ….These jobs include direct, indirect, and induced jobs related to construction, manufacturing, operations and maintenance, and the supply chain. Overall, the 90% Clean case supports over 500,000 more jobs each year compared to the No New Policy case.”

renewables 2020Another report,  Renewables 2020 Global Status Report   was released by REN21 on June 16, with a  36-page summary of Key Findings . The report provides detailed global statistics re capacity and investment trends, and  also discusses the considerable impact of the coronavirus. There is much good news – for example, over 27% of global electricity now comes from renewables, up from 19% in 2010…. The share of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power has grown more than five times since 2009” .  But there is also an urgent call to end fossil fuel subsidies and for other policy actions under the heading: “Momentum in renewable power hides a profound lag in the heating, cooling and transport sectors”.  The report states:

“It would be short-sighted to celebrate advances in the power sector without acknowledging the alarmingly low shares and slow uptake of renewables in the heating, cooling and transport sectors. …. Renewable shares in heating and cooling are low (10.1%) and struggle to increase, even as the sector accounts for more than half of total energy demand. Similarly, energy demand in transport – which accounts for a third of total energy demand – is growing the fastest by far, yet renewable shares barely exceed 3.3%. Ongoing dependence on fossil fuels for heating, cooling and transport is related to a lack of policy support for renewables in these sectors. There is still no level playing field. Many countries continue to uphold fossil fuel subsidies, which in 2018 increased 30% from the year before. Global fossil fuel subsidies totalled USD 400 billion, more than double the amount that governments spent on renewable power. ….. The massive support for fossil fuels hinders the already difficult task of reducing emissions and must be brought to a halt. “ In 2019, a record 200 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity was added, more than three times the level of fossil fuel and nuclear capacity. Over 27% of global electricity now comes from renewables, up from 19% in 2010.– a remarkable rise attributed largely to continued cost declines for these technologies.”

On  June 11, the U.S.  Solar Energy Industry Association released its Solar Market Insight Report for the 2nd Quarter of 2020, forecasting a 31% drop in solar installations in 2020 over 2019, mostly  as result of Covid-19.   The SEIA  press release estimates that 72,000 workers in the U.S. have lost their jobs .  The Executive Summary  discusses the impact of the coronavirus extensively; only the Executive Summary is available for free. The report analysis is done by Wood MacKenzie consultants, and the full report is pricey.

U.S. Solar industry rebounds to almost 250,000 workers in 2019

solar jobsThe 10th annual National Solar Jobs Census for the United States was released by the non-profit Solar Foundation in mid-February. It reports  a resurgence in solar industry employment in 2019, following two years of job losses in 2017 and 2018.  The report states that 249,983 U.S. workers  spent the majority of their time in solar-related activities in 2019, and an additional 94,549 workers spent some portion of their time on solar-related work, for a total of 344,532 workers. The full Report is downloadable (with free registration) from this link ,  with a summary here.  It provides state-by-state statistics re job totals and sectors within the solar industry, and profiles the solar industry in California (where the Title 24 mandate went into effect in 2019, requiring all new residential homes to be built with solar PV), and the South-east U.S. The report also forecasts future trends, and  provides discussions of demographics and workforce development, reporting that a majority of employers have difficulty recruiting and hiring. (Through its Solar Training Network, the Solar Foundation published Strategies for Solar Workforce Development: A Toolkit for the Solar Industry  in 2018).

Some highlights from the 2019 National Solar Census:

  • About the industry: Approximately 93%  of U.S. solar establishments work in solar PV electricity generation. 16% of firms work on solar heating and cooling, (e.g. solar water heaters); 7% work on projects related to concentrating solar power (CSP).
  • About the demographics: Diversity remains almost the same as in 2018: women represented 26% of the solar workforce, Latino or Hispanic workers represented 17%, Asian workers comprised 9%, and black or African American workers comprised 8%.
  • About wages: for entry-level unlicensed (non-electrician) solar installers the median wage was $16.00 (the U.S. national median wage for all occupations is $18.58). The median wage for entry-level licensed (electrician) installers was $20.00.
  • Wages for production workers start at $15.00 for entry-level employees, ( national median wage for production workers is $16.85). Wages reached $36.50 for senior-level production employees.

Women and minorities still at a disadvantage in U.S. solar industry

solar industry 2019 diversity infographicThe U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019  was released by The Solar Foundation ,  in partnership with the Solar Energy Industries Association on May 6, reflecting  a growing  industry awareness of the need to promote inclusion. The 2019 study is based on survey responses from 377 employers and 398 employees in the winter of 2018, and reports on  job satisfaction, career paths and progression, and wages.

Some highlights: 

  • Among the senior executives reported in the survey, 88% are white and 80% are men.
  • Three of the top five recruitment methods rely on professional and personal networks – putting minority applicants at a disadvantage to be hired  (Only 28% of Hispanic , Latino, and African American  respondents reported that they found their jobs through a referral or by word of mouth, compared to 44% of white respondents).
  • There is a 26% gender wage gap across all position levels. 37% of men earn in the range of $31 to $74 per hour, compared to only 28% of women.  The median wage reported for men was $29.19, and for women it was only $21.62.

The full report is available here (registration required). This is the second Diversity Report, but the first, in 2017, is no longer available online. An accompanying  Best Practices Guide  is a brief guide aimed at HR managers to encourage diversity and inclusion programs.  A summary  of the report appears in Think Progress .

Other reports which confirm the need for more diversity in the solar industry: 

Solar Empowers Some  (February 2019)  focused on the state of diversity and inclusion in Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Advancing inclusion through clean energy jobs  (April 2019)  by the Brookings Institution goes beyond just the solar industry to include all clean energy and energy efficiency occupations. It reports that fewer than 20 percent of workers are women, and less than 10 percent are black, confirming that the clean energy economy workforce is older, dominated by male workers, and lacks racial diversity compared to all occupations nationally.  This report, importantly, also documents skills and educational requirements, and is written in the context of labour market issues for a transition to a clean economy.

We have little comparable research in Canada. As reported in the WCR  previously,  Bipasha Baruah at Western University in London researches the gender issue in the renewable energy industry, and in 2016 presented a report,  Creating and Optimizing Employment Opportunities for Women in the Clean Energy Sector in Canada, at Imagining Canada’s Future, an SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Symposium at the University of Calgary.

U.S. energy employment report shows job growth in oil and gas, energy efficiency; decline in solar jobs

US energy jobs report 2019The U.S. Energy and Employment Report 2019 edition  (USEER) was released by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the think tank Energy Futures Initiative on March 6 , providing  detailed statistics about the energy workforce and the industrial sectors in which they work.  The 2019 USEER reports on the “Traditional Energy Sector” (composed of fuels; electric power generation; and electric power transmission, distribution and storage) as well as the energy efficiency sector. Those four sectors combined to employ approximately 6.7 million Americans, or 4.6 percent of the  workforce, with an employment growth rate of almost 7 percent in 2018, outpacing the economy as a whole.  The report also includes statistics on the motor vehicle and parts industry, (excluding automobile dealerships and retailers) – which grew at a rate of 3%, employing over 2.53 million workers. Of these, almost 254,000 employees worked with alternative fuels vehicles, including natural gas, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all-electric, and fuel cell/hydrogen vehicles, an increase of nearly 34,000 jobs.

Noteworthy trends:  the number of jobs in solar decreased by 4.2% in 2018 (the latest Solar Foundation Census reported a decrease of  3.2% for 2017- 2018);  Oil and natural gas employers added the most new jobs in the fuel sector, nearly 51,000, most of which were in  mining and extraction; the energy efficiency sector  produced the most new jobs of any energy sector—over 76,000—with 2,324,866 jobs in total, and an anticipated growth rate of approximately 8%.

This is the second edition of the USEER Report to be published by the National Association of State Energy Officials and Energy Futures Initiative, and as before, it uses same the survey instrument and underlying methodology as was used when the U.S. Department of Energy was responsible, so that data is compatible for year-over-year comparisons. The survey was administered to over 30,000 employers across 53 different energy technologies in late 2018.  Data shows:  Employment numbers and trends; Employer hiring expectations for the next 12 months; Hiring difficulty by technology and industrial classification; High demand jobs and skills gaps; Workforce demographics by race, ethnicity, gender, and veteran’s status; highly detailed geographic location by state, county, congressional and legislative districts. A separate report on energy wage data is scheduled for release later in 2019.  Reports are available in several formats:   a  Full Report, Executive Summary, and reports by State, as well as individual sections for Fuels; Electric Power Generation Transmission, Distribution, and Storage; Energy Efficiency; and Motor Vehicles & Component Parts.

Growth and diversity in the U.S.clean energy industry

Two new reports foresee employment growth in the U.S. renewable energy industry – despite the chilling effect of the tariffs on solar equipment imposed  by the Trump administration, as described in a Solar Energy Industry Association press release in December.   The first study, Clean Energy sweeps across rural America  (November 2018) by the Natural Resources Defence Council examines job growth in wind, solar, and energy efficiency in rural regions throughout the Midwest U.S., and finds that the number of clean energy jobs grew by 6 percent from 2015 to 2016 (a higher rate than the economic in general), to a total of  nearly 160,000 in 2017.  In 2017, in the rural parts of every midwestern state except North Dakota and Kansas, more people worked in clean energy than in the entire fossil fuel industry.  The report emphasizes the outsized impact of job opportunities in rural areas in which job growth is normally negligible or even negative. The report also profiles examples of  community solar programs operated by co-ops and investor-owned utilities.

A second report  models the impact of  replacing Colorado’s coal plants with a mix of wind and solar backed by battery storage and natural gas.  This report was prepared by consultants Vibrant Clean Energy and commissioned by energy developer Community Energy Inc., with a main focus on cost savings and carbon emissions.  However, it also forecasts job impacts under three scenarios (keeping coal plants to 2040, gradually retiring coal plants, and retiring all coal plants in 2025), and overall,  it forecasts a 52% increase in employment in the electricity industry.

The January 9 press release  quotes a representative from Community Energy Inc:  “The key to unlocking these benefits is to create a legal framework that enables utilities to voluntarily retire the coal plants. Otherwise, it could take years to negotiate or litigate utility cost recovery, replacement power costs and impact on local communities.” The full Coal Plant Retirement study is here .

Finally, the Solar Energy Industries Association issued a press release in early December, highlighting its 2018 initiatives to improve gender equity and diversity – including the creation of the Women’s Empowerment Initiative, which includes summits to increase women’s leadership and various industry opportunities.  In September 2018,  the SEIA signed a Memorandum of Understanding  to help the solar industry recruit and employ more students from the 101 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  This will include hosting a national jobs fair, individual jobs fairs at the HBCU schools and bringing solar companies to campuses for recruitment.   A webinar series on diversity and inclusion is scheduled for SEIA member companies in 2019.

Global Renewable Energy industry lacks human rights and labour rights protections

Renewable energy BHRRC cover part 2London-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) released a new report on September 5th : Renewable Energy Risking Rights & Returns: An analysis of solar, bioenergy & geothermal companies’ human rights commitments  . The report analyses 59 companies’ human rights policies and practices on five key areas: human rights commitment, community consultations, grievance mechanisms, labour rights and supply chain monitoring. It concludes that  “The current level of commitment by the majority of renewable energy companies is insufficient to prevent, address and mitigate human rights harms, especially as the sector rapidly expands.”

Concerning labour rights, only 36% of renewable energy companies were found to have policies committing them to core labour rights such as collective bargaining and freedom of association, 42% commit to  the prohibition of child labour and 41% to prohibition of  forced labour and modern slavery.  An aspect with resonance for Canadians, in light of the recent federal Court of Appeal decision against the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the report found that “less than 30% (17 out of 59) of renewable energy companies have a stated commitment to consultation with communities affected by their projects. Only 8 companies reference indigenous peoples’ rights and 4 companies have a commitment to free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities.”  Overall,  47% of companies do not have basic human rights commitments or processes in place, and only 5 companies met a set of basic criteria on human rights, community consultation and access to remedy. These findings are consistent with a previous BHRRC  survey, reported in 2016.

Based  on its extensive research of the mining industry, BHRRC also states that “failure to respect human rights can result in project delays, legal procedures and costs for renewable energy companies, underlying the urgency to strengthen human rights due diligence.”   It calls for investors to step up their engagement in renewable energy companies to ensure better respect for human rights.

Read the press release here  for a summary of the report, and explore ongoing monitoring of human rights in the renewable energy sector here.

Wind energy continues to grow in the U.S.; Solar energy weathers Trump’s tariffs

Aerial view of the National Wind Technology Center; wind turbinesWind power capacity has tripled across the United States in just the last decade as prices have plunged and the technology has improved, according to new reports released by the U.S. Department of Energy at the end of August.  Three reports are summarized in a press release on August 23 , and in “U.S. Wind Power Is ‘Going All Out’ with Bigger Tech, Falling Prices, Reports Show” by Inside Climate News . The full reports are: 2017 Offshore Wind Technologies Market Update  August 2018 ; 2017 Wind Technologies Market Report  ; and 2017 Distributed Wind Market Report  .

How Much Damage are Trump’s Solar Tariffs Doing to the U.S. Industry?” (Aug. 20) in Inside Climate News concludes that the tariffs have had a dampening effect on the industry, but less than expected.  The  Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), using confidential information provided by the companies which are its members, estimates that 9,000 jobs have been affected to date – either by layoffs or prospective jobs that were cancelled. Their initial forecast in January 2018 had been that tariff-related job losses could reach about 23,000 for 2018.  The Solar Foundation reported in February 2018 in its annual Solar Jobs Census that 250,271 Americans worked in solar as of 2017, although the number of workers had declined in 2017 for the first time since 2010.  That trend will surely turn around by 2020 when the new regulations in California take effect, requiring solar panels on almost all new homes.

U.S. energy employment report: statistics by gender, age, race, and union status

USEER May 2018 reportThe 2018 U.S. Energy & Employment Report (USEER) was released in May, reporting that the traditional Energy and Energy Efficiency sectors employ approximately 6.5 million Americans, with a job growth rate of approximately 133,000 net new jobs in 2017 – approximately 7% of total U.S. new job growth.   The report provides detailed employment data for energy sectors including Electric Power Generation and Fuels Production (including biofuels, solar, wind, hydro and nuclear) and Electricity Transmission, Distribution and Storage. It also includes two energy end-use sectors: Energy Efficiency and Motor Vehicle production (including alternative fuel vehicles and parts production).  It is important to note that, unlike many other sources, this survey includes only direct jobs, and not indirect and induced jobs.

In addition to overall employment totals, the report provides an in-depth view of the hiring difficulty, in-demand occupations, and demographic composition of the workforce – including breakdowns by gender, age, race and by union composition.  As an example for solar electric power generation: “about a third of the solar workforce in 2017 was female, roughly two in ten workers are Hispanic or Latino, and under one in ten are Asian or are Black or African American. In 2017, solar projects involving PV technologies had a higher concentration of workers aged 55 and over, compared to CSP technologies.”

The previous USEER reports for 2016  and 2017  were compiled and published by the U.S. Department of Energy.  In 2018, under the Trump Administration, two non-profit organizations,  the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative, took over the task of compiling the data, using the identical survey instrument developed by the DOE.  Timing was coordinated so that year over year comparisons with the precious surveys are possible.  Peer review of the report was performed by Robert Pollin, (Political Economy Research Institute) and  James Barrett, (Visiting Fellow, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy).  The overview website, with free data tables at the state level, is here   .

Trump’s solar tariffs may impact solar jobs worldwide

solar installers on roofDonald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on solar panels and washing machines on January 23  was roundly criticized on many grounds – most frequently, the impact on jobs in the solar industry, as stated in the  New York Times Editorial on January 23 ,“Mr. Trump’s Tariffs will not bring back manufacturing jobs”.   The Times supported their opinion with several articles, including  “Trump’s Solar Tariffs are clouding the industry’s future” (Jan. 23) , which states: “Far more workers are employed in areas that underpin the use of solar technology, such as making steel racks that angle the panels toward the sun. And the bulk of workers in the solar industry install and maintain the projects, a process that is labor-intensive and hard to automate.” The Solar Energy Industries Association in the U.S. response is here, and their Fact Sheet (Feb. 2)  explains the terms and impact of the decision. The Solar Foundation released its 8th annual Jobs Census on February 7, revealing the first-ever year of decline in the number of jobs, but still a census of over 250,000 workers.    For a thorough overview, see the Fact Checker article by the Washington Post,  “Trump says solar tariff will create ‘a lot of jobs.’ But it could wipe out many more” (Jan. 29).

Three Canadian solar companies immediately filed a suit against the tariffs in the U.S. Court of International Trade, arguing that they violate NAFTA. The EU, China, South Korea, and Taiwan have also filed complaints at the World Trade Organization.  For a deeper look at the possible implications for other countries, including Canada, consider the complexity of global trade:  From an excellent overview in  The Energy Mix: “Trump Solar Tariff may be opening salvo in trade war”: “Although China appeared to be Trump’s intended target, the tariff on solar cells and panels will mostly hit workers in other countries. Thanks to dispersed supply chains—and partly in response to previous U.S. tariffs—solar photovoltaic manufacturing is a global industry. Malaysia, South Korea, and Vietnam all hold a larger share of the U.S. market than China does directly. And all are entitled to seek remedies under various trade agreements.”   The Energy Mix item refers to “U.S. tariffs aimed at China and South Korea hit targets worldwide”    in the New York Times (Jan. 23), which adds:  “Suniva, one of the American solar companies that had sought the tariffs, filed for bankruptcy protection last year, citing the effects of Chinese imports. But the majority owner of Suniva is itself Chinese, and the company’s American bankruptcy trustee supported the trade litigation over the objections of the Chinese owners.” From Reuters,  “Why the US decision on solar panels could hit Europe and Asia hard”  states that Goldman Sachs estimated that the tariffs implied “a 3-7 percent cost increase for utility-scale and residential solar costs, respectively …. Two key exclusions with respect to technology and certain countries (Canada/Singapore, among others) were included as part of the (initial) recommendation.” Canadian Solar , founded in Canada but a multinational traded on NASDAQ,  is one the world’s biggest panel manufacturers.

For an overview of the current state of the U.S. renewable energy markets and labour force, including solar, see  In Demand: Clean Energy, Sustainability and the new American Workforce  (Jan. 2018) , co-authored by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Meister Consultants Group.  Highlights:  there are  4 million clean energy jobs in the U.S., with wind and solar energy jobs outnumbering  coal and gas jobs in 30 states.  Quoting the IRENA Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review for 2017 ,  the In Demand report states that: “The solar industry grew 24.5 percent to employ 260,000 workers, adding jobs at nearly 17 times the rate of the overall economy in 2016.”  The coal industry employs 160,000 workers in the U.S.  In Demand  compiles statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy, International Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and many others, about current and projected clean energy markets and employment in the U.S.: renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative vehicles, and energy storage and advanced grid sectors.

 

Exceptional growth in clean energy jobs forecast for Europe and the U.S.

SolarPower Europe, together with consultants EY, published Solar PV Jobs & Value Added in Europe  in early November, concluding that Europe is poised for a solar jobs revival after several years of policy-driven uncertainty.  The report discusses the policy environment, including trade policies, makes job projections, and  estimates the socio-economic impact per segment of the value chain, for roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar.  The job creation forecast:  the  the PV sector workforce will grow from 81,000 full time jobs (FTE) in 2016 to over 174,000 FTE by 2021 (an increase of 145% in the next 5 years). As quoted in an article in PV Magazine, the President of the European solar industry association states that an additional 45,500 jobs could be created across Europe next year if the trade restrictions on modules and cells from Asia were to be removed. SolarPower Europe proposes an industrial competitiveness strategy for solar in Europe which aims to support 300,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030. It has also released a Policy Declaration, Small is Beautiful which promotes the benefits of small scale, clean, locally owned distributed energy.

In the U.S., the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) released the 2017 Clean Energy Industry Report  on October 27, showing a 3.4% employment growth rate for clean energy between December 2015 to December 2016 (surpassing the economy as a whole). Growth is  projected  to double again to 7% by the end of 2017. At the end of 2016, clean energy jobs employed 146,000 New Yorkers, distributed as follows:  110,000 jobs in energy efficiency; 22,000 renewable electric power generation (12,000 of which are found in solar energy); 8,400 alternative transportation;  2,900 renewable fuels, and 1,400 in grid modernization and storage.   The report also discusses a labour market imbalance where demand exceeds supply of clean energy workers, with employers reporting  the most difficult positions to fill are engineers, installers or technicians, and sales representatives.

Finally from the U.S.,  an article by Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) economists, appeared in the October issue of Monthly Labor Review with a summary and analysis of  the detailed data of Employment Projections for the entire U.S. economy for 2016-26, released on October 24.  The article notes: “Healthcare and related occupations account for 17 of the 30 fastest growing occupations from 2016 to 2026.   …   “Of the 30 fastest growing occupations, 6 are involved in energy production. Employment for solar photovoltaic (PV) installers is expected to grow extremely fast (105.3 percent) as the expansion and adoption of solar panels and their installation create new jobs. However, because this is a relatively small occupation, with a 2016 employment level of 11,300, this growth will account for only about 11,900 new jobs over the next 10 years. Developments in wind energy generation have made this energy option increasingly competitive with traditional forms of power generation, such as coal and natural gas, and are expected to drive employment growth for wind turbine service technicians. Employment of these workers is projected to grow 96.1 percent. As with solar PV installers, this occupation is small, and its rapid growth will account for only about 5,500 new jobs.”  Surprisingly,  “Faster-than-average employment growth from 2016 to 2026 is projected for a number of oil and gas occupations, including roustabouts, service unit operators, rotary drill operators, and derrick operators. The oil price assumptions in the MA model are expected to cause employment growth in the oil and gas extraction industry, at an annual growth rate of 1.7 percent over the 2016–26 decade. ”

 

First Nations, Renewable Energy, and the benefits of community-owned energy projects

“These are exciting times in British Columbia for those interested in building sustainable, just and climate-friendly energy systems.” So begins the October 12 featured commentary, “BC First Nations are poised to lead the renewable energy transition”, published by the Corporate Mapping Project, a research project led by the University of Victoria, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC and Saskatchewan Offices) and Parkland Institute. The commentary summarizes the results of a survey conducted for the B.C. First Nations Clean Energy Working Group  by academics at the University of Victoria , published in April 2017 . The survey reveals that 98% of First Nations respondents were either interested in, or already participating in a renewable energy projects – 78 operational projects, 48 in the planning or construction phase, and 250 further projects under consideration in B.C. alone.  The responses reveal a growing interest in solar photovoltaic (PV), solar thermal, biomass and micro-hydro projects under development—compared to already-operational projects, 61% of which are run-of-river hydroelectricity. Survey respondents identified three primary barriers to their involvement in renewable energy projects: limited opportunities to sell power to the grid via BC Hydro – (mostly because of the proposed Site C hydro project), difficulties obtaining financing, and a lack of community readiness.

Although the discussion focuses specifically on B.C.’s  First Nations, the article holds up the model of community-level energy projects beyond First Nations : “Instead of proceeding with Site C, BC has an opportunity to produce what new power will be needed through a model of energy system development that takes advantage of emerging cost effective technologies and public ownership at a community scale. Doing so would enable an energy system that can be scaled up incrementally as demand projections increase. It would also ensure the benefits energy projects are channelled to communities impacted by their development, and help respond to past injustices of energy development in our province….Choosing this path would result in a more distributed energy system, more resilient and empowered communities, a more diverse economy and a more just path towards climate change mitigation.”

CBC reported on another survey of First Nations – this one at a national level –  in “Indigenous communities embracing clean energy, creating thousands of jobs” ( October 11). The article focuses on First Nations renewable energy projects on a commercial scale, stating: “nearly one fifth of the country’s power is provided by facilities fully or partly owned and run by Indigenous communities”. The article links to case studies and numerous previous articles on the topic, but focuses on the job creation impacts of clean energy: “15,300 direct jobs for Indigenous workers who have earned $842 million in employment income in the last eight years.”

The CBC article summarizes a survey conducted by Lumos Energy , a consultancy which specializes in energy solutions, especially renewable energy, “for First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders and communities”. Lumos Energy  leads the Indigenous Clean Energy Network ; its principal, Chris Henderson, has written the book Aboriginal Power: Clean Energy and the Future of Canada’s First Peoples (2013).

$1.5 billion will buy new renewable energy projects, good green jobs, and environmental justice in New York State

On  June 2, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his state would invest $1.5 billion in renewable energy projects through the Clean Climate Careers Initiative.  The program has three elements:  “supercharge” clean energy technologies, create up to 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020, and  achieve environmental justice and Just Transition for underserved communities. Both the Governor’s press release and one from the Worker Institute at Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School attribute the inspiration for the new renewable energy initiative to the  “Labor Leading on Climate” program at the Worker Institute.

The  Institute has just published Reversing Inequality, Combatting Climate Change: A Climate Jobs Program for New York State (June 2017),  in which Lara Skinner and  co-author J. Mijin Cha argue for an “audicious”  job creation plan which would create decent green jobs in the building, energy, and transport sectors.  The report provides case studies and specific proposals to reduce GHG emissions – for example, to retrofit all public schools in the state to reach 100 percent of their energy efficiency potential by 2025, reduce energy use in all public buildings by 40 percent by 2025, install 7.5 GW of offshore wind by 2050,  rehabilitate New York City public transit, and construct and improve the existing high-speed passenger rail corridor between Albany and Buffalo, and between New York City and Montreal.  The report also includes a recommendation to establish a Just Transition Task Force – a recommendation incorporated in Governor Cuomo’s plan.

In the plan announced  by Governor Cuomo, $15 million has been committed “to educators and trainers that partner with the clean energy industry and unions to offer training and apprenticeship opportunities, with funding distributed to the most innovative and far-reaching apprenticeship, training programs and partnerships.  ”  The state is also committed to the use of a Project Labor Agreement framework for the construction of public works projects associated with the initiative.

A Working Group on Environmental Justice and Just Transition has been appointed and staffed, with a first meeting scheduled for June.  It will advise the administration on the integration of environmental justice principles into all agency policies, and to shape existing environmental justice programs.  The press release includes endorsements from the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance and unions, including: Greater New York Building Construction Trades Council, New York State AFL-CIO, New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, IBEW Local 3, Transport Workers Union, Utility Workers Union Local 1-2,  United Association Plumbers & Pipefitters, and the past Secretary Treasurer of Service Employees International Union.

Governor Cuomo’s  Renewable Energy initiative was announced one day after Donald Trump’s  withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and after the Governor had signed an Executive Order  reaffirming New York’s  commitment to the Paris goals, and had launched a Climate Alliance with the states of California and Washington.

Solar Job Training report and growth forecasts for solar and wind energy

solar farmSolar job growth is strong in the U.S., according to The Solar Training and Hiring Insights report  ,  released by the Solar Training Network ,  a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and administered by The Solar Foundation. The report aggregates data from several sources, including an extensive survey of more than 400 solar installers, as well as smaller case studies and in-depth interviews with dozens of solar employers, trainers, and workforce development boards in the U.S. Amongst the findings: Solar employers expect to add 26,258 positions in 2017, a 10% growth in the workforce; the largest growth in the industry has occurred in installation, with 93,199 installation-related jobs added between 2010 and 2016; average wage range for an inexperienced, new installer was $10 – $23, progressing to $20 – $48  for a crew-leader; 77% of industry respondents did not have formal mentorship or apprenticeship programs.   The report also provides insight into the prevalence and structure of in-house training programs, and employer attitudes to such issues as the importance of experience and certification in hiring decisions.

The  2016 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, released on April 19th by the  American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), states that wind power added jobs at a rate more nine times greater than the overall economy in 2016;  domestic wind-related manufacturing jobs grew 17% to over 25,000 factory jobs in the U.S.  According to the Association spokesman, “bigger, better technology enables new wind turbines to generate 50 percent more electricity than those built in 2009 and at 66 percent lower cost …  With stable policy in place, we’re on the path to reliably supply 10 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020.”  Further,  “The average modern wind turbine installed here in the U.S. creates 44 years of full-time employment over its lifetime.”  The report also emphasizes the importance of jobs and revenues to rural economies, where wind projects are concentrated.   Other reports re wind energy:  also from the  AWEA,  a  white paper, Wind brings jobs and economic development to all 50 states ;  from Navigant Consulting, Economic Development Impacts of Wind Projects   released in March 2017 states that “the U.S. wind industry will drive over $85 billion in economic activity over the next four years while wind-related employment will grow to reach 248,000 jobs in all 50 states in 2020.”  The Navigant forecasts measure the impact of the extension of  the Production Tax Credit (PTC) programs in the U.S.

 

ILO report about Indigenous People’s role in the green economy; Canadian First Nations and clean energy

An April report released by the ILO, Indigenous peoples and climate change: From victims to change agents through Decent Work rejects the characterization of Indigenous people as “victims”.  The report states that indigenous peoples, numbering  over 370 million worldwide , “are at the vanguard of running modern green economies”, and “if they have access to decent work opportunities; if they are empowered to participate in decision making; if their rights are protected; and if policies address their social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities while honing their positive potential as partners, workers, entrepreneurs and innovators, indigenous peoples will become empowered agents of change who can play a vital role in spurring green growth and combating climate change.”

As if to prove the points of the ILO report, a press release on April 24 announced the results of a survey conducted by the University of Victoria Environmental Studies for   B.C. First Nations Clean Energy Working Group and  Clean Energy B.C.First Nations and Renewable Energy Development in British Columbia reports the results of a survey conducted from October 2016 to February 2017, showing that 47% of the 105 First Nations respondents are involved in the clean energy industry in some way – from ownership to receiving royalties. There are currently 78 operating projects, (in which they have invested over $35million), plus 49 projects under development and an additional 249 projects that they want to build, ranging from wind farms to solar installations to run of river power generation. 61% of First Nation respondents said the biggest barrier for their projects is the lack of opportunity to sell power to B.C. Hydro, because the utility has stopped buying power from independent producers,  projecting a surplus of power from the controversial Site C dam.  (DeSmog Canada compiles the latest news and research about the Site C project here.)

First Nations across Canada are also active investors in green energy, according an article in the Toronto Star April 26, “Six Nations of Grand River lead the charge on green energy”   . The article mentions projects in Quebec and Manitoba, and highlights the Ontario Six Nations of the Grand River solar and wind projects as exemplary – most recently, the Oneida Business Park in Ohsweken, Southwestern Ontario, which was awarded Aboriginal Project of the year by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association in summer 2016.

six nations development corporationSix Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation (SNGRDC) manages the Six Nations’ economic interests in 17 renewable energy projects and numerous economic development opportunities. It employs over 100 people.  SNGRDC’s current green energy portfolio is capable of producing over 900 MW of renewable energy through its direct or indirect involvement in 10 solar, 6 wind and one hydroelectric project(s). Consultation is currently underway about another investment in a solar project near the now-decommissioned Nanticoke coal-burning power plant – which will consist of  175,000 to 210,000 solar photovoltaic  panels on 4 parcels of land either owned or leased by Ontario Power Generation.   The Grand River Employment and Training (GREAT) administration is involved to promote employment of First Nations workers in the contruction phase.

In January 2016,  the Whitesand First Nation also received an OSEA award for their sustained efforts to launch a 3.64 MW combined heat and power biomass plant, which will provide electricity to three communities of the Far-north.

Alberta reinvesting carbon levy revenues in clean energy programs

cropped-worksolar.jpgAlberta announced  a new Residential and Commercial Solar rebate program  on February 27, funded with $36 million from revenues from the province’s carbon levy. The government estimates that the program will stimulate up to 900 jobs in the solar sector, while reducing GHG emissions and cutting installation costs for residences by 30 per cent and  for businesses and non-profits by 25 per cent.  In combination with a December 2016  change to the  Micro-generation Regulation ,  which increased the allowable capacity of  micro-generation systems to five megawatts, the rebate program  is meant especially to encourage solar commercial  and community operations .  The Pembina Institute reaction    highlights the aspect of microgeneration and distributed energy; DeSmog Blog   gives more details and context about the overall growth of solar in Alberta. Iron and Earth , the workers’ organization promoting the transition from oil and gas to renewables, calls the announcement a “great first step” on their Facebook page   , and notes their previous call to the Alberta government for increased access to solar skills training programs.

smart-thermostatOn  Febrary 28,  the government issued an invitation for Albertans to register for a Residential No-Charge Energy Savings Program   ,  encouraging all households, regardless of income, to upgrade to more energy-efficient products, including LED lights, high efficiency shower heads, and smart thermostats. Installation and product costs will be borne by the province and financed, again, through carbon levy revenues.

Finally, on March 3, Alberta announced matched funding of $10 million from the province and the federal government for a Calgary-based Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC) .  The facility will “test breakthrough technologies that convert CO2 from harmful emissions into applications for everyday use.”  It will be owned and operated by InnoTech Alberta   , a subsidiary of Alberta Innovates; the goal is to support “Alberta-based technology developers, as well as attracting global companies and world-class researchers to the province”.  The Pembina Institute calls it “a plug and play technology sandbox”  and “an excellent way to create partnerships and accelerate our learning with respect to new technologies, in order to develop emissions solutions and create economic opportunities.” The Alberta Clean Technology Industry Alliance also approves.  The investment follows a February 13 meeting to expand and renew the Alberta – Canada Collaboratory on Clean Energy Research and Technology Memorandum of Understanding.

Energy Efficiency and Community Energy: Incentives in Alberta, a Success Story in B.C.

Getting it Right: A More Energy Efficient Alberta   is the final report of the government’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel , and “ a road map for creating jobs, diversifying the economy and saving Albertans money” according to the government press release on January 23 . All programs will be coordinated through the newly-created agency, Energy Efficiency Alberta ; three programs are already underway, using revenue from the Alberta carbon levy to provide incentives or rebates for energy-saving appliances and equipment, solar panels, and retrofitting . The Energy Efficiency Alberta  mandate also extends to community-owned renewable energy systems and non-utility scale community energy systems; the Panel report proposes short-term and long-term financial incentives to support community wind and other renewable energy installations, along with complementary technologies such as storage and smart grid applications.

The Getting it Right report also includes a goal of increased “capacity development”, which “can take the form of post-secondary education and training, professional development and training activities, conferences and other events” to improve energy-related skills.  The report includes an appendix of the energy-related research programs in Alberta universities.  Summaries of the public discussions are here   ; a submissions library here  constitutes an impressive collection of information about energy efficiency.

In British Columbia:  a success story of a community-owned solar farm in the city of Kimberly,  highlighted in Clean Energy Review.    Sunmine   is “ BC’s largest solar project, Canada’s largest solar tracking facility, and the first solar project in B.C. to sell power to the BC Hydro grid.”  Citizens of the city approved the project in a referendum in 2011; city administrators managed the planning and financing; and the mining company Teck provided the land and infrastructure of its reclaimed Sullivan Mine Concentrator site, plus $2 million. Since it began operation in 2015, Sunmine has won numerous awards, including Community of the Year Award by Clean Energy BC in 2015, and in 2017, the Clean 50 award for outstanding contributions to clean capitalism.  A  short video about the Sunmine project by Green Energy Futures is here .

 

Wind and Solar industry groups report healthy growth

wind turbine worker inside.jpg

Photo from U.S. Energy.gov. Creative Commons license. 

Wind installations in Canada have grown by 18% in the last 4 years, according to the latest statistics released in February by  the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). There are now 285 wind farms, made up of 6,288 wind turbines in Canada, representing about $1.5 billion in investment.  Most wind projects are in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. The greatest growth occurred in Nova Scotia in 2016, mostly driven by the province’s community feed-in tariff program. An article by the UBC Sauder School of Business summarizes the results with emphasis on British Columbia:   “B.C. Lags during banner year for wind power” .

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)   also released new statistics,  on  Feb. 9, showing that wind has surpassed hydropower dams to become the largest source of renewable electric capacity  in the U.S., and the fourth largest overall.  Texas is the undisputed leader in wind energy, with 25% of the national capacity and nearly 25% of the jobs – including at 40 wind manufacturing facilities in the state. The industry report points out that “Of the $13.8 billion invested by the U.S. wind industry last year, $10.5 billion was invested in low-income counties”, making rural and Rust Belt America among the greatest beneficiaries of wind power development.

The European industry body, WindEurope,  released its latest statistical report on  February  9th, showing “The cost of wind power continues to plummet, and this is particularly the case for the European offshore sector, which has met and exceeded its 2020 price targets by a substantial margin, and five years early. ” In “Off-shore wind moves in to energy’s mainstream”, the New York Times provides an overview, mostly of Europe, and observes, “Offshore wind still represents only a tenth of new generation in the sector, …but investment in the industry nearly tripled in the five years to 2015.”

Finally, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)   published its annual statistics report in the first  week of February;   the 4-page statistical overview  is here  . It reveals that  China is leading the way in installed wind power (34.7% of global installed power) , followed well behind by the United States ( 16.9%) , Germany (10.3%), and India (5.9%) .  Canada ranks 7th  with 2.4% of global installed capacity.

SOLAR INDUSTRY:    According to the 2017 edition of the Solar Jobs Census  released by the Solar Foundation on  February 7, more than 51,000 solar industry jobs were added in the U.S. in 2016 – bringing the total number of Americans working in the industry to 260,000.  A  Bloomberg News summary of  the report ,  “U.S. Solar Industry clamors for workers as employment climbs by 25% “, quotes the Executive Director of the Solar Foundation : “Solar manufacturing, installation, and operation now “employ more [Americans] than Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple combined…These are well-paying, family-sustaining jobs with low barriers to entry, with average wages at US$26 per hour for solar installation.”

The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is also bullish on the industry in its 4th Quarter “US Solar Market Insight” report , conducted by GTM Research and the SEIA. It shows a record-breaking number of solar installations in 2015, so that the U.S. now hosts more than 1.3 million solar photovoltaic installations with enough capacity to power 8.3 million households. The report states: “While U.S. solar grew across all segments, what stands out is the double digit gigawatt boom in utility-scale solar, primarily due to solar’s cost competitiveness with natural gas alternatives.”

For a comprehensive overview of employment statistics for all sectors of the renewable energy industry, see the Jobs in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet, released by the Environmental and Energy Institute (Washington, D.C.) in February.  The Fact Sheet compiles statistics from  many sources, though it relies heavily on the U.S. Department of Energy report, U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) (January 2017),  and the Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review (2016) from  International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) .

 

Clean Energy is unstoppable – and China is in the lead

January 2017 began with an attention-getting report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance: “Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth” .  Similarly, the Renewable Infrastructure Investment Handbook published  by the World Economic Forum states:   “ renewable energy technology, especially solar and wind, has made exponential gains in efficiency in recent years, enough to achieve economic competitiveness and, in an increasing number of cases, grid parity.”   A January 5 post by Clean Energy Canada,  “Clean Energy is too good a deal for Trump to Pass up ” , documents the economic and political  forces driving clean energy in the U.S., and offers this chart comparing the number of jobs in solar to the fossil fuel industries.

jobs-in-solar-vs-oil-and-gas-jan-2017

from Clean Energy blog post, “Clean Energy is too good a deal for Trump to pass up” (January 5, 2017)

And in an unprecedented move for a sitting President of the United States, Barack Obama has written “The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy”  in Science (Jan. 9), with an overview of his energy policy legacy, and making the case that market forces in the U.S. will carry it on.

A general consensus is that the clean energy train  has left the station, and China is driving that train.  A January 2017  report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) is the latest to document the growing dominance of China in the renewable energy industry in   China’s Global Renewable Energy Expansion: How the World’s Second-Biggest Economy Is Positioned to Lead the World in Clean-Power Investment.  The report  states:   “The change in leadership in the U.S. is likely to widen China’s global leadership in industries of the future, building China’s dominance in these sectors in terms of technology, investment, manufacturing and employment. ” According to the IEEFA,   Chinese global investment in clean energy exceeds $100 billion annually, (more than twice that of the U.S.), and is expanding beyond Asia to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America. It cites the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2016 report ( Nov. 2016) to state that China holds 3.5 million of the 8.1 million renewable energy jobs globally. Small wonder when five of the world’s six largest solar-module manufacturing firms, and five of the ten top wind-turbine manufacturing firms are owned by  Chinese companies.  Between 2015 – 2021,  “China will install 36% of all global hydro electricity generation capacity … 40% of all worldwide wind energy and 36% of all solar.”See a summary of the details of the IEEFA report in “China cementing Global Dominance of Renewable Energy and Technology”   in The Guardian ;  the Globe and Mail  summary   “U.S. and Canada falling behind China in race for renewable energy” (Jan. 6) rather badly understates the case .

The trend  seems set to continue.  On January 5, the Chinese National Energy Agency announced its plans for the next phase of energy investment: see “China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020 ” in the New York Times.

In Canada, the latest major report tracking clean energy investment was published by Clean Energy Canada in June 2016.   Tracking the Energy Revolution    reported reduced investment in 2015 (from $12 billion to  $10 billion), although renewable generation capacity grew by 4% in that time.  Even before the announcement of the Pan-Canadian Framework, Clean Energy Canada called this a “pivotal time” for renewables, and sets an optimistic tone.  That boosterism is also apparent in   “Challenge 2017: Rays of hope shine on solar industry despite ‘Trump digs coal’ mantra” in the Financial Post (Jan. 3) – a mostly anecdotal story of Canadian solar manufacturers, and  “Canada can cash in on a cleantech boom“, in the Toronto Star (Jan. 5). The Star article  applauds  a recent clean energy-focused trade mission to China by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the clean-tech incentives announced in the December 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework on  Clean Growth and Climate Change, and recent federal and provincial policies that set aggressive targets for renewable energy use in government buildings and operations.

Renewable energy news: Alberta, Ontario, U.S. and International statistics show a “broad shift to clean energy” investment

As part of its Climate Leadership Plan, Alberta launched  the Alberta Indigenous Solar Program (AISP)  and the Alberta Indigenous Community Energy Program (AICEP)  on October 5.  With a total budget of  $2.5 million, the two programs are directed at First Nations and Metis communities,  to undertake pilot projects for renewable energy and energy efficiency audits.  Alberta next issued a Request for Information (RFI)   on October 6,  for procuring solar power for half of government operations , anticipating that it will  lead to Western Canada’s first solar farm.  See “Here comes the sun: Alberta Plans to establish first solar farms”   from the Edmonton Journal (Oct. 6)  and an item that appeared before the government announcement,  “Growing list of solar projects in wings as Alberta moves to replace coal”  at CBC  (Sept. 15).

In a surprising change of direction at the end of September, the Ontario government announced the cancellation of a second round of renewable energy procurement that would have added 1,000 megawatts of wind and solar power to the province’s grid. Existing FIT and MicroFIT projects will be unaffected, but the government hopes to put a lid on electricity cost increases for consumers by avoiding the costs of building infrastructure. See  the government press release ;  “ Spooked Ontario Liberals Retreat From Green Goals” from  the Energy Mix    ;  “Why did the Liberals backtrack on their renewable energy plan?” from TVO,  or  “Wind Industry shocked as Ontario halts LRP Mechanism”   in North American WindPower.

In the U.S. , the federal Department of Energy  released its National Offshore Wind Strategy  on September 9,  with a goal of generating enough electricity from offshore wind to power 23 million homes.

And from the International Energy Agency in  mid-September, the first in a new annual report series, World Energy Investment 2016,  with the stated premise that investment is “ the lifeblood of the global energy system”. Statistics show the state of investment in energy across technologies, sectors and regions around the world; they reveal a “broad shift towards cleaner energy”, with $313 billion invested in renewables in 2015. Though this is flat in dollar terms, it produced 33% more energy due to improved wind and solar technology.  A further $221 billion was invested in energy efficiency.  While oil and gas investment was still tops in 2015, it declined by 25% from 2014 and is projected to decline a further 24% in 2016.

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 .

Oil workers in Newfoundland training for wind and solar energy jobs

Iron and Earth, the worker-led group which helps oil and gas industry workers transition to clean energy jobs, announced  a Memorandum of Understanding with Beothuk wind-farm-311837_1280Energy   in mid-July 2016.  Beothuk, headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland, is proposing to build six offshore wind farms in Atlantic Canada with a combined capacity of  4000+ MW of energy, and estimates that it will create 10 jobs for each MW produced. The MOU is not available online, but is reported to encourage apprenticeships and retraining in wind energy.

On August 8, the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of Iron and Earth began to crowdfund  for a demonstration greenhouse project: to build a greenhouse incorporating solar and one other site-specific technology (micro-hydro, wind or geothermal) to power, heat and light a greenhouse year-round.  Concurrently, the project will demonstrate a solution to food security issues by powering LED grow lights even in the winter months, and will offer a solar energy course to  increase the region’s renewable energy skill set. Iron and Earth states that Newfoundland has no training programs for renewable energy, and a goal of this project is to retrain oil and gas workers. Bullfrog Power, the leading Canadian green energy provider, has pledged to  match any donations made to the  Greenhouse crowdfunder until the goal is reached; click here for details or to donate.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers promotes Green Skills Training

“Green Skills Training and Certification” was the topic of the opening Plenary session of the Training Conference of the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO) in Vancouver on June 4 . The Green Skills session related to electrical vehicle infrastructure technology, photovoltaic solar energy technologies, and advanced energy‐conserving lighting system controls.  NETCO  is  a joint partnership of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (CECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) of Canada, and is associated with The electrical training ALLIANCE™ of the U.S.   Another IBEW initiative was highlighted in a  May report from the Don Vial Center on the Green Economy at U of California, Berkeley.  Training for the Future II: Progress to Date  describes the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee (UPCT) program, a model program for entry-level disadvantaged workers in Los Angeles, jointly operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and  IBEW Local 18.    Since 2011, trainees “earn-and-learn” by working full time weatherizing homes and small businesses while learning skills and preparing for civil service exams in the utility. The first Training for the Future  report from 2013 is also available.

Clean Energy Investment Slows in Canada; Canada ranks 11th in Clean Energy Jobs

The 2016 edition of  Tracking the Clean Energy Revolution: Canada  was released by Clean Energy Canada in June with an upbeat message, despite the fact that renewable energy investment and development slowed in some provinces ( 89% in Alberta, 52% in British Columbia, 15% in Ontario, and 9% in Quebec).  At the same time, investment grew in Atlantic Canada, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, so that it was still Canada’s second-best year on record for clean energy spending, and  renewable generation capacity  grew by 4 per cent. The main message of the report, however, is that a new spirit of cooperation and ambition has developed with the change of leadership in the federal government.  The report lists the renewable projects, their size, and companies involved throughout the country, but doesn’t report on employment impacts. For that, consult the latest survey by the  International Renewable Energy Agency, Renewable Energy and Jobs 2016 . Canada ranks 11th, with an estimated 36,000 clean energy jobs, well behind the top countries of China (with 3.5 million jobs!), Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany.  Solar Photovoltaics continues to be the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide in 2015, an 11% increase over 2014.  For the first time, IRENA published gender-based employment figures, based on their own online survey.   Women represent 35% of the workforce in the 90 renewable energy companies surveyed from 40 countries – higher than the energy industry average of 20-25%.  On average, women represent 46% of the administrative workforce, 28% of the technical workforce, and 32% of management roles.  Earlier IRENA reports are here  .