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Short-term pain for green jobs, but there could be long-term gain

The US lost more than 100,000 green energy jobs in March due to the coronavirus shutdown, but the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) first Global Renewables Outlook, released today, reports that if the world thinks long term, investment in green energy would be a huge boost to the global economy.

In the short term, like all sectors, the US renewable sector is taking a big hit due to the coronavirus pandemic. A study by BW Research Partnership for environmental entrepreneurial advocacy group E2, which drew from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that March unemployment data reflect the following job losses:

  • 69,800 jobs lost in energy efficiency, which includes efficient lighting, high efficiency HVAC and other renewable heating and cooling, and ENERGY STAR products and appliances.
  • 12,300 jobs lost in hybrid, electric, and other alternative fuel vehicles.
  • 16,500 jobs lost in green energy, which includes solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal and bioenergy/biomass.
  • Clean fuels and clean transmission, distribution, and storage dropped about 3% of their workforce, representing 3,400 and 4,300 jobs, respectively. Clean fuels include biomass and other biofuels. Clean transmission, distribution, and storage includes battery and other clean storage technologies, microgrids, smart grid, and other grid modernization.

These numbers do not reflect underemployment or temporary unemployment, and April will probably look worse.

However, if we think long-term, IRENA reports, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom:

Transforming the energy system could boost cumulative global GDP gains above business-as-usual by USD $98 trillion between now and 2050. It would nearly quadruple renewable energy jobs to 42 million, expand employment in energy efficiency to 21 million and add 15 million in system flexibility.

Here’s IRENA’s director-general Francesco La Camera on the report:

Electrek’s Take

These job losses are painful, especially when we need to be developing the clean energy sector faster and more efficiently than ever. But La Camera is right: We have to stay the course and keep our eyes on the prize.

La Camera says:

By accelerating renewables and making the energy transition an integral part of the wider recovery, governments can achieve multiple economic and social objectives in the pursuit of a resilient future that leaves nobody behind.

Supporting the green energy sector now is not only better for the environment, it’s also going to pay off for healthier economies. The fossil-fuel subsidies need to be permanently scrapped.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.