The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides incentives for accelerating the rollout of clean energy in the United States and for a surge in green jobs. But a shortage of talent and green skills could be a hurdle to a faster shift to cleaner energy solutions.
While the new clean energy policies are expected to create more than 9 million jobs over the next decade, and the hiring rate and job creation in clean energy is higher than the national average, the skilled workforce is in short supply.
Currently, the number of professionals with green skills is lower than the talent companies seek to fill green roles, including in manufacturing, engineering, carbon accounting, green finance, or tracking corporate climate goals, research and analyses have shown.
Clean energy job creation is rising faster than the U.S. average and the U.S. energy sector’s average, but it’s still not enough to meet the demand for clean energy and green skills overall.
Finding and hiring sufficient numbers of talent for the clean energy systems would be crucial for America to reach its climate and emissions goals.
The IRA has nearly $370 billion in climate and clean energy provisions, including investment and production credits for solar, wind, storage, critical minerals, funding for energy research, and credits for clean energy technology manufacturing such as wind turbines and solar panels.
The legislation is expected to create more than 9 million good jobs over the next decade—an average of nearly 1 million jobs each year, an analysis commissioned by the BlueGreen Alliance from the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found last year.
“Few pieces of legislation this century have come close to such sweeping job creation potential. This bill’s investments offer an opportunity to support and create good union jobs and for workers and communities to reap the economic gains of the clean economy,” said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Jason Walsh.
Rising employment in clean energy led the 3.8% jobs growth in the U.S. energy sector in 2022, when the industry outpaced the overall U.S. rise in employment, the annual report by the Department of Energy showed last month.
Last year, the number of clean energy jobs rose in every state and grew by 3.9%, or by 114,000 jobs from 2021, according to the 2023 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER). Clean energy jobs made up more than 40% of total energy jobs in 2022. Clean energy technologies accounted for more than 84% of net new electric power generation jobs, while the growth in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) jobs was almost 17 times faster than the increase in gasoline and diesel vehicle employment, the report showed.
But the clean energy growth needs to be faster, and more skilled employees and workers are needed.
Last year, the number of U.S. LinkedIn profiles with at least one green skill grew by 8.4%, compared with a 20% surge in green job postings, data from LinkedIn provided to The Wall Street Journal showed.
The U.S. fossil fuel-based energy sector remains larger than the renewable energy industry, but data shows that renewable energy is gaining ground, per LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills Report 2023.
“Since March 2020, the LinkedIn hiring rate for the U.S. renewable energy industry has consistently surpassed the LinkedIn hiring rate for US oil and gas. There were 69% more renewable energy jobs posted in the first three months of 2023 than in the first three months of 2022, for example, while oil and gas job postings grew by 57% over the same period,” LinkedIn says.
Globally, only 1 in 8 workers has one or more green skills, suggesting that “we are far from the green skills penetration that we need,” LinkedIn notes.
Reskilling and training will be essential, as will be the transferable skills from other industries such as engineering, electrical engineering, or construction. These transferable skills could widen the talent pool for green energy jobs if they pay enough to motivate workers to switch to jobs related to the clean energy transition.
Industries should also work to invest in workforce and skill training and development to seize the massive investment opportunities provided by the IRA.
Solar manufacturing jobs alone are expected to more than triple over the next ten years, growing from about 35,000 jobs today to 120,000 by 2033, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
“If we don’t make a concerted effort to invest in workforce development and make equitable access a core component of these programs, we will be leaving one of the biggest wealth-building opportunities and climate solutions on the table,” says Erika Symmonds, vice president of equity and workforce development at the SEIA.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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