How many people in your network are unemployed?

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If you are working in clean energy, like us at 60Hertz, it’s about 1 in 8. Nationwide, Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 450,000 people have recently registered as unemployed from a clean energy job, out of the 3,500,000 people this sector employs in the US. We are all eager to get back to work, and now’s the time for Congress to employ low-cost and effective ways to tide-over if not invigorate this promising sector.

 

Some may wonder what counts as a clean energy job? Sure, it’s people who install solar panels. But it’s so much more. Clean energy jobs are also the sales personnel that work for solar or wind or hydropower companies. Clean energy jobs are the research and design professionals who manufacture batteries. Clean energy employees are those who teach safety courses to wind technicians — critical in the 30 Alaskan communities that have wind-diesel systems. Clean energy employs those who finance renewable energy deals. Clean energy jobs are definitely for those who work in energy efficiency – installing new boilers, retrofitting lights, adding insulation. In Alaska, more than 4,400 people in our state have an energy efficiency job!

 

At the bottom of the list but closest to my heart are clean energy maintenance jobs, since 60Hertz is maintenance software for energy assets.

 

Nationwide, more than 4 million people work in a maintenance profession.

Energy maintenance is a special component, since these technicians, mechanics, operators and electricians are literally the people keeping the lights on. The more remote the asset, the more consequential a power outage: imagine the people who are dependent on a microgrid for keeping their food cold or even frozen to last a winter. Or the telecommunications towers that enable our cell phones. Or even those who depend upon reliable power for a ventilator or other medical device. All of these people, and all of their electronic devices depend on an energy maintenance professional.

 

Alaska has lost more than 1,200 clean energy jobs since the pandemic began. And this is tough. However, clean energy is a sector that is proven to rebound and accelerate growth as it does. Nationwide, employment in this sector has grown nearly 11% since 2015. True, the clean energy sector has lost jobs. But it’s not as bad as many other sectors, which is a good sign that this sector is a wise place to invest further. Federal stimulus money leads to a rate of return in our economy, so it’s wise to invest it in sectors that are winners.

 

Investment shapes the future we will live in. Crunchbase is an international database of start-ups receiving venture capital, and lists 1,940 companies in the clean tech or clean energy space that are active. Investors are clearly feeling optimistic about this sector because more than $49B has been invested in companies over the past 10 years, and the volume of deals is steadily increasing. 60Hertz is one of these companies, and our contribution is to the longevity and optimization of renewable power assets globally.

 

Alaska’s Senators Murkowski and Sullivan have standing to encourage infrastructure stimulus. The country is yearning for the productivity of bipartisanship. Clean energy investment in the form of low-interest loans to start energy efficiency businesses can get contractors back to work. Congressional assistance can extend the Investment Tax Credit to leverage private capital and keep the government out of the market – simply using its powers to dangle a carrot. Congressional leadership is able to encourage investment in start-up companies like mine, powerful engines for growth, since younger people attracted to clean energy start-ups will have worked the equivalent of a full year’s worth of time well before December 31st — driven to see their goals achieved and investor returns hit. I had worked 2080 hours this year by October 16th.

 

We’ve all talked about silver linings this year. Senators Murkowski and Sullivan have low-hanging fruit to harvest by including clean energy stimulus in forthcoming infrastructure or COVID relief legislation. This is a sector that private investors love, and awaits only advocacy from government. If we emerge from the pandemic from anything, let it be new paradigms for how we work, what sectors we invest in, and what methods we prioritize to compel growth.

 

 

About

Piper Foster Wilder

Piper Foster Wilder is a Humboldt Fellow and is former Vice President of Amatis Controls. She is committed to creating meaningful work for all people and enabling a transition to renewable energy while economizing the diesel that some must use. She holds multiple awards for her entrepreneurship and social impact initiatives.

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