900,000 Opportunities to Advance Equity in the Clean Energy Economy
Thursday, Sep 09 2021
President Biden is right: When you think of climate action, you should think jobs. In order to fully decarbonize our electric grid by 2035, the solar workforce must reach 900,000 Americans. This is an historic opportunity, but we must take steps to ensure that workforce reflects the diversity of our country and allow the rising tide of the solar industry to lift all boats.
It’s not enough to just hope that it happens — Congress needs to take action so that these new opportunities are available to all Americans in every state and in every community.
We are building a clean energy economy that will lead us through the 21st century. If we get it right, we have the chance to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, invest billions of dollars into the economy, and clean up our air while we lower CO2 emissions and tackle the climate crisis. At every turn, it is essential that we prioritize equal access to these benefits and lead with principles of equity and justice.
Growing the solar and storage economy will be a new economic boom, making it even more important to include those that have been left behind and disproportionately harmed by the ravages of climate change. Lower-income, minority and underserved communities are bearing the brunt of environmental racism while being shut out of the economic benefits of investing in the energy sector.
Congress now has an opportunity to undo some of that damage by placing equity and justice at the forefront of the infrastructure and budget packages.
The legislation being debated as we speak can make it possible to build a brighter and more equitable future that helps these communities build wealth for their families with good-paying solar jobs. The infrastructure package can help people start their own local businesses in the clean energy sector and bring new economic opportunity to their communities.
This legislation must be intentional if we want to build an equitable clean energy economy, and we have a good idea of what this might look like. This spring the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), with input from a range of climate and environmental justice partners, put together a policy platform to help define the environmental justice outcomes and policies that can expand equitable access to solar energy and all its benefits.
It’s also equally as important to provide training and placement support for displaced fossil fuel workers and communities that want to continue their careers in the energy sector. Many fossil fuel workers are already making the switch to clean energy to build a new legacy, and we hope many more will join us.
The fact is, to reach President Biden's 2035 climate goals the solar workforce must quadruple in size. If we take the right steps today, we can create hundreds of thousands of new careers and success stories.
These are quality jobs with health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits that support American families. Thousands of these jobs are union jobs — unionization rates in the solar industry are comparable to the construction and manufacturing sectors. Whether it’s a union job or not, the solar and storage industries offer rapid advancement, skills development, and the opportunity for long-term career growth in a vital and beneficial sector of the economy.
It's easy to fall back into old patterns, but we have to be bold and intentional if we want to create a better world. Our leaders also need to be courageous and must capitalize on this opportunity to pass historic infrastructure legislation that helps us tackle the climate crisis and recruit, hire, and train a diverse workforce for a 21st century clean energy economy.
Learn more about SEIA’s top policy priorities and what the organization is doing to make sure clean energy makes it into the infrastructure package.