Green job growth down in first quarter from last year, group says

Source: Joshua Learn, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 23, 2014

Idaho, Texas and California lead the pack when it comes to creating the most clean energy and clean transportation jobs for the first part of 2014 — but the numbers are less than half of last year’s, according to a first quarter report by an environmental nonprofit business group.

Environmental Entrepreneurs’ (E2) report said that 5,600 new jobs were announced nationwide in the first three months of this year, compared to 12,000 jobs in the same time period last year.Bob Keefe, executive director for E2, used the statistics to criticize Congress for failing to act on key pieces of legislation.”We saw a sharp drop-off in the first quarter of this year compared to last year. This is what happens when Congress doesn’t do its job,” Keefe said in a phone interview.

He blamed lawmakers for failing to extend tax breaks for wind energy and energy efficiency companies as well as “a whole host of other issues.”

“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,” Keefe said in a news release.

“Workers who rely on this industry for their family’s paychecks are twisting in the wind,” he added on the phone. “These clean energy tax provisions are key to job growth and economic growth in America.”

The report pointed to three ways to boost clean energy and transportation jobs: tax incentives for wind, biofuels and energy efficiency; new standards for existing power plants expected to be unveiled by U.S. EPA in June; and lawmakers supporting efficiency and clean energy targets rather than repealing or freezing them in states like Ohio or Indiana.

The report showed that a trend continued from 2013 toward increasing solar power jobs, while building efficiency — up in 2013 — showed a decline along with wind energy job announcements.

The top states in all of 2013 were California with 21,000 announced jobs and Texas with more than 6,000, according to the yearly report released by E2 in March. That report found that clean energy and transportation jobs were down 30 percent from 2012, which E2 blamed in part on the low cost of natural gas and moves by renewable energy opponents to block industry growth (Greenwire, March 13).

Keefe also pointed to the failure of the Senate to pass the “EXPIRE Act” due to “fighting over procedure.” The act would have extended $85 billion in tax credits that would have benefited the wind industry, among other sectors.

“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.

Some of the notable clean energy jobs announced so far this year include 800 expected jobs at Agua Caliente LLC’s geothermal plant in Walker Ranch, Idaho; 350 expected jobs at First Solar Inc.’s Barilla Solar Project in Pecos County, Texas; and 80 potential jobs at NJR Clean Energy Ventures Corp.’s wind farm in Carroll County, Iowa.

“Given the muddied policy environment on clean energy, low overall jobs numbers were expected,” Keefe said. “Fortunately, it’s not too late for lawmakers to steer clean energy and clean transportation job growth back on track.”

E2’s numbers come from announcements made by public officials and company executives, and those that are reported on in media outlets.