Congressional inaction on key clean energy tax policies, coupled with attacks on state renewable energy programs, led to a dramatic decline in clean energy job announcements in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest report from the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).
About 5,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the first three months of this year, down from 12,000 such jobs reported in the comparable period in 2013.
A major geothermal project in Idaho accounted for the most clean energy jobs announced on the state level in the first quarter. Idaho was followed by more traditional clean energy leaders. The remaining states in the Top 10 were: Texas, California, Missouri, New York, Kansas, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana. For the complete report and state-by-state details on all clean energy jobs announced in Q1 and in previous quarters, seewww.cleanenergyworksforus.org.
Despite adding thousands of new jobs to the economy, the dramatic drop in clean energy and clean transportation job announcements in the quarter is a clear reflection of mixed signals American businesses are getting from Capitol Hill and state capitals when it comes to policies such as the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and various state-level renewable energy standards (RES), according to E2.
“Congress pulled the plug on smart clean energy tax policies at the end of last year, while in the states, lawmakers are getting bullied by special interests that don’t want our country to produce more clean, renewable energy,” said E2 executive director Bob Keefe. “Guess who’s suffering as a result? American workers and businesses.”
Keefe added: “Given the muddied policy environment on clean energy, low overall jobs numbers were expected. Fortunately, it’s not too late for lawmakers to steer clean energy and clean transportation job growth back on track.”
Three main opportunities exist in the coming weeks and months:
• Federal tax policy: If Congress acts now to reinstate on a long-term basis incentives like the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind, as well as other tax credits for biofuels and energy efficiency, lawmakers would have an immediate, positive impact on clean energy job growth. The longer incentives remain expired, however, the more U.S. workers will be left twisting in the wind. (The American Wind Energy Association recently noted uncertainty around the wind PTC has led to the loss of 30,000 jobs.)
• Carbon Pollution Standards: In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to unveil standards for existing power plants that will for the first time limit carbon pollution, just like the EPA has limits on other dangerous pollutants like mercury and arsenic. These new carbon limits pave the way for manufacturing and power-generation companies in clean energy and energy efficiency sectors to invest in operations and add jobs.
• State Renewable Portfolio Standards: On the state level, one of the biggest opportunities to defend or strengthen job-creating clean energy policies is in Ohio, where state lawmakers and Gov. Rob Kasich have the power to stop Senate Bill 310. By freezing efficiency and renewable energy targets, S.B. 310 threatens a state manufacturing base that ranks first nationally in wind manufacturing facilities. The E2 report also notes state RPS’s have recently been repealed in Indiana, and defended or strengthened in Kansas, New York, and Vermont.
“If we want to keep creating good-paying clean energy jobs in America, our elected officials need to do their jobs first. They need to support these smart policies that will help our economy while also helping our environment,” Keefe said.
Among the notable clean energy projects announced in the first three months of 2014:
• Aguacaliente’s 25 MW, $150 million geothermal plant is expected to bring 800 jobs to Walker Ranch, Idaho;
• NJR Clean Energy Ventures’ wind farm in Carroll County, Iowa, could create more than 80 jobs; and
• The 22 MW Barilla solar project in Pecos County, Texas, is expected to create about 350 jobs.
Among industry sectors in the first quarter, there was a noticeable shift in the types of jobs announced in the solar industry in particular. Whereas larger, utility-scale projects were drivers of job growth in previous quarters, the most recent report shows residential solar is gaining ground and putting people to work. Other major sectors like building efficiency and wind also saw declines.