Pierre Bull, Policy Analyst, Air & Energy, New York City
Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) reports that nearly 5,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced throughout the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014, a significant decline from the previous two quarters.
The decline stems in part from:
“… the expiration of federal tax credits critical to leveling the playing field for renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, like wind, solar, and energy efficient lighting, as well as continuing attacks on state clean energy policies, and low natural gas prices. Because of ongoing regulatory uncertainty and other energy sector trends, businesses held back investments that would likely have led to more hiring in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors.”
From commercial-scale solar developments to energy-efficient recycling projects, clean energy and clean transportation continues to create jobs and drive economic growth. Now two-and-a-half years running, E2’s jobs reports show how and where clean energy works in the United States. Job announcements are collected from companies, elected officials, the media, and elsewhere.
For more details, including state-by-state breakdowns and more clean energy jobs stories, visit www.CleanEnergyWorksForUs.org
New States Crack the Top 10
Idaho and Louisiana were two newcomers to the Top 10. Idaho took the overall number one spot thanks to 800 planned jobs from Aguacaliente’s 25 MW geothermal project announcement near the town of Malta. In Louisiana, recycled plastic railroad tie maker IntegriCo Composites’ announced a new manufacturing facility in Webster Parish that could bring several hundred jobs to the area.
On the technology front, geothermal had one of its strongest showings since E2 began tracking job announcements in 2011. E2 tracked more than 1,000 job announcements from the geothermal sector in Q1, which came in third overall behind solar and wind, which were in a virtual tie at the top spot with each sector bringing forth as many as 1,600 jobs each.
Policy Uncertainty at the Federal Level Is Slowing Clean Job Growth
The report provides valuable insight and detail into the ongoing uncertainty surrounding a host of federal policies that are aimed at leveling the playing field to allow clean energy to fairly compete. These policies include:
- The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) currently to sunset in 2016. Investors are beginning to show more caution toward backing larger scale solar projects requiring longer lead and planning times.
- The Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) expired in 2013. New wind job announcements are null as a result.
- Energy efficiency tax credits enacted in the Energy Policy Act of 2007 have expired. These include the tax deduction for the construction of efficient commercial buildings (Section 179D); tax credit for the construction of efficient homes (45L); and tax credit for investment in residential efficiency improvements (25C).
Despite this uncertainty, E2 points to the Environmental Protection Agency’s anticipated rollout of carbon pollution standards for existing power plants in June, saying this could offer more certainty and opportunities for growth in the clean energy industry.
“By ensuring carbon is regulated from these power plants for the first time, clean, renewable sources of energy like sun, wind, and geothermal and energy efficient technologies, like more efficient lighting and appliances, insulation, and system controls, could play a significant role in helping states to cost effectively meet the standards and potentially lead to substantial increases in the number of clean jobs announced in the coming years.”
A Majority of States Continue to Defend and Advance Clean Energy Policies
Clean energy deployment policies in the states standards continue to stand firm against an assault by fossil fuel front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Below is a summary of the past few months’ of clean energy policy activity taking place in the states.
- Indiana: Despite saving citizens of the Hoosier state some $49 million in avoided energy costs in 2011 (or enough energy savings to power 78,000 homes), the state’s legislature passed a bill in March to repeal the Energizing Indiana program. Governor Pence took “un-signed” action on it to make it law at the end of March. This action will result in an estimated loss of 400 Indiana jobs.
- Ohio: A bill recently passed in the Ohio Senate (S.B. 310) would freeze the 2014 efficiency and renewable energy targets, creating a crippling effect on the state’s energy efficiency industry and renewable energy manufacturing base. Ohio ranks first nationally in wind-related manufacturing facilities, supporting between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs. Leading the NRDC effort to defend Ohio’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, my colleague Samantha Williams recently posted this blog dispelling the myths that clean energy opponents have tried to use to advance bad bills like S.B. 310.
- Kansas: For the second year running, a minority of powerful lawmakers in Kansas attempted to repeal, and later weaken in a second attempt, the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires state utility companies to source 20 percent of their electricity from renewables like wind and solar by 2020. My colleague David Weiskopf provided the play-by-play recap of this renewed attempt by fossil fuel interests to weaken the state’s signature clean energy deployment policy.
- New York: Governor Cuomo created the NY-Sun Initiative in 2012 with the intention of building a scalable solar market in New York. In early 2014, he followed through on his intention by announcing that he would expand and extend the program with nearly $1 billion in incentives to grow solar at least ten fold by 2023, which would be enough to power nearly half a million New York homes. The program is expected to add more than 10,000 new jobs in the solar industry.
- Vermont: On April 1, Governor Shumlin raised the Green Mountain State’s net metering cap from 4 percent of a utility’s peak load to 15 percent, and enabled greater consumer participation in the net-metering program. Net metering allows customers with on-site renewable generation such as rooftop solar to receive full retail utility bill credit for power they put back onto the grid, e.g. when their meter spins backwards.
- Iowa: The legislature passed two key bills to bring more solar jobs to the Hawkeye State. Provided Governor Branstad signs the legislation, the bills would triple residential tax credits for solar generation, increase credit available for business owners installing solar, and extend tax credits for other renewable generation.
To preserve existing jobs and to ensure new ones can be created, Congress must act now to enact long-termextensions of federal tax credits for wind, solar and energy efficiency. In the meantime, states can demonstrate the types of clean energy leadership that’s absent in Congressby supporting policies like state-level energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standards. We cannot let this opportunity to advance our economy and create more jobs pass us by.