Renewable energy is beginning to surpass traditional, non-renewable energy in terms of popularity, affordability and more.
Illinois Economic Policy Institute Policy Director Frank Manzo IV discussed what the clean energy industry needs to do to increase their workforce and create family-supporting jobs on America’s Work Force Union Podcast.
Investing in clean energy
Manzo introduced a study conducted that focused on North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, three of the most dominant states in the production of clean energy.
The report found that producing clean energy was actually cheaper than producing non-renewable energy. It also found that jobs such as solar panel installers and wind turbine technicians are among the fastest growing careers in that region.
Manzo said a shift towards cleaner energy sources needs to happen for the sake of our infrastructure. Due to the effects of climate change, power lines are frequently damaged by high winds, prolonged heat damages asphalt and other surfaces and frequent flooding weakens the structural integrity of bridges.
Manzo said that for every $1 billion invested in clean energy, 7,000 jobs are created, bringing $1.3 billion in economic activity. Both of these numbers are more than what happens with $1 billion invested in non-renewable energy.
He said the issue is the wages and benefits that come with clean energy jobs. Many non-renewable energy jobs are union jobs that provide a family-supporting wage and quality benefits.
For now, much of the clean energy labor comes from out of state, meaning that the money leaves the area and the region misses out on valuable tax revenue.
He also said there needs to be a transition path for non-renewable energy workers to work in the clean energy sector. This comes in the form of stronger prevailing wage laws and the increased use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs).
Giving a boost to prevailing wage laws and use of PLAs will increase the quality of training in the region and drive wages up, making clean energy careers attractive.