Renewable Energy Jobs for Fossil Fuel Workers

A wind turbine technician standing in a wind farm.
  • Mar 4, 2021

As cities and states across the country work to reduce their carbon emissions, many are shifting away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. Many experts say that transitioning to 100% clean energy from sources such as wind and solar will be a crucial step in reducing our carbon emissions. But what does this mean for current and former fossil fuel workers?

The Rise of Renewables, The Fall of Fossil Fuels

The clean energy industry is on the rise. Wind turbine technicians and solar panel installers are currently two of the fastest-growing jobs in the country, with that growth expected to continue in the coming years. E2’s Clean Jobs America 2020 report found that nearly 3.4 million Americans work in clean energy, outnumbering fossil fuel workers by 3-to-1. The report also found that renewable energy has been one of the nation's strongest sectors since 2015, adding jobs 70% faster than the overall economy over the last five years.

While clean energy is experiencing a major boom, the fossil fuel industry is experiencing a major bust. In the last decade, the US has seen a 40% decline in coal-fired power generation, and the U.S. oil industry is expected to contract by 20% in the next decade and by 95% between 2031–2050. 

As renewables rise and fossil fuels fall, there will be a major reshifting in the American workforce. Luckily for current and former fossil fuel workers, jobs in renewable energy may be a great fit.

Fossil Fuel Workers Are Prime Candidates For Clean Energy Jobs 

The rapid growth of renewable energy will require a rapid filling of thousands of clean energy jobs—and few groups of American workers are better candidates for those jobs than fossil fuel workers.

Coal miners and oil workers are skilled technical workers who are already familiar with operating complex machinery and equipment safely. That technological expertise, plus their aptitude for mechanical work and their additional relevant skills, primes these workers to succeed in solar and wind energy jobs. In fact, renewable energy companies are already recruiting coal miners based on their work ethic and technical and mechanical skills.

Former fossil fuel workers can fill roles in renewable energy construction, manufacturing, installation, planning, maintenance, research, or inspection. They can work as construction workers, technicians, structural engineers, project managers, equipment operators, or any number of other roles—in an industry growing as fast as renewable energy, the job possibilities are nearly endless.

The Many Benefits of Renewable Energy Jobs

The clean energy industry offers highly desirable jobs with stable, high wages. Many renewable jobs also have good benefits with no advanced degrees required. 

Workers in renewable energy earn higher, more equitable wages than the average American worker and than fossil fuel workers. In fact, the average clean energy worker typically earns up to 25% more or $2 to $5 per hour more than the national average. Additionally, renewable energy wages are more equitable—clean energy workers at the lower ends of the income spectrum can earn $5 to $10 more per hour than workers at the lower ends of the income spectrum of other jobs.

In addition to jobs working directly in the renewable energy industry, the transition to clean energy also provides the opportunity for current and former fossil fuel workers to fulfil another important role: plugging abandoned oil and gas wells. 

Oil and gas wells continue to release pollution even after they are retired. According to the EPA, there are more than 2 million unplugged, inactive wells across the country, which emit as much carbon pollution as 2.1 million cars per year. Plugging these abandoned wells is a necessary step in order to reduce their pollution, and it also could create tens of thousands of jobs.

Whether working directly in the renewable energy industry or working to plug abandoned oil and gas wells, clean energy jobs offer the opportunity to perform meaningful work by powering our country and our communities while simultaneously protecting our planet from climate change. 

Clean Energy Jobs In the Heart of Coal Country

Many Americans who live in communities that have been reliant upon fossil fuels for decades may feel concerned about what the transition to renewable energy might mean for their family and their communities. Fortunately, people in these communities have reason to be optimistic.

A new report from Brookings shows that regions with a high share of fossil fuel jobs have a lot of potential to benefit from wind and solar development. The report found that “many current fossil fuel hubs are ideal sites for renewable energy production” and that there is "impressive overlap between where fossil fuel jobs are now and where renewable energy generation could be." 

Some companies have already brought clean energy to coal country. Solar Holler is a solar development and installation company in West Virginia, dedicated to advancing solar energy in the Mountain State. They launched the state’s first solar job training and apprenticeship program, helping young people in the heart of coal country become solar technicians. Workers who train with Solar Holler receive basic electrical apprenticeship experience and training in basic construction, mounting systems, system design, and energy analytics.  

We Need A Just Transition

As the transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy picks up speed, we need to ensure that current and former fossil fuel workers are not left behind during the transition—we need to ensure the shift from fossil fuels to renewables is a just transition.

At CleanChoice Energy, we support the growth of clean energy jobs by sourcing electricity from wind and solar farms located in the regions where our customers live and advocating for the development of clean energy at the state levels. 

You can be part of a cleaner future today by choosing clean energy for your electricity. Sign up for 100% pollution-free renewable energy today with CleanChoice Energy.

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