Photo: Joe Biden; Source: POTUS Twitter account

Biden clean energy plan key to straightening out energy job losses

The U.S. energy sector lost 10 per cent of its workforce last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and one of the critical ways to revitalise the industry is President Biden’s clean energy plan.

According to the annual U.S. Energy Employment Report, the U.S. energy workforce, from fossil fuels to solar power, shed 840,000 jobs in 2020 as the global health crisis sapped demand for transportation fuels and slowed new projects.

The largest declines were in petroleum and natural gas fuels with a combined loss of 186,000 jobs, or 21 per cent of their workforce, according to the report. Employment in the wind energy industry was among the only sectors to grow, rising a modest 1.8 per cent.

Government officials who unveiled the report on Monday stated that President Joe Biden’s clean energy plan was critical to reviving the industry.

Biden made it clear, even on the campaign trail, that he was hard set on tackling climate change – making those statements well-known even during the debates against former President Donald Trump.

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When he took over the Oval Office, it was no different. Biden announced on his first day as president that the United States was returning to the international Paris Agreement to fight climate change. With him also came his plan to spend $2 trillion over four years to significantly increase the use of clean energy in the transportation, electricity, and building sectors.

Offshore wind got support from Biden’s administration as well with a plan for the U.S. to have 30 GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030. This was a centrepiece of a plan by the Biden Administration to jumpstart offshore wind energy and create tens of thousands of jobs in the sector over the next decade.

The ambitious offshore wind target will support around 77,000 direct and indirect jobs and trigger more than $12 billion per year in capital investment in projects on both U.S. coasts.

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More than 44,000 people are expected to be employed in offshore wind by 2030, with nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity.

A month before that plan was announced, Rystad said that global workforce demand in offshore wind will rise dramatically over the next decade, with the number of jobs in this sector reaching around 589,000 in 2025, while 2030 could see 868,000 full-time offshore wind jobs. It is worth noting that the current estimate is at around 297,000 workers in the sector.

As for this most recent report, it was published by the National Association of State Energy Officials, think tank Energy Futures Initiative, and research firm BW Research Partnership, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wind and solar jobs are currently less likely to be unionized than those in nuclear, natural gas and coal, according to the report. The energy industry as a whole also employs fewer women and people of colour than the broader economy, the report found.

Another notable fact is that a report released earlier this year by the same group also found that workers in nuclear energy and fossil fuel industries earn higher wages than those in renewable energy sectors.

According to Reuters, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Monday that Biden’s plan was an opportunity to revitalize the energy industry while also improving wages, union representation and diversity in the clean energy business.

While we do have work to do to make our energy sector more robust, we also have a lot of work to do in making our energy sector look like America and to make sure that these new clean energy jobs are paying family-sustaining wages, with good benefits and union membership“, Granholm claimed.