While U.S. leaders were worrying about coal jobs, clean energy snatched the lead: even Virginia now has more people working in solar than coal.

 

va-electric-sector-jobs

Jobs in electric generation do not include fuel jobs, so for example, the coal jobs in the two charts have to be added together to get total employment. Wind and solar, of course, have no fuel costs. Charts come from DOE.

Jobs in electric generation do not include fuel jobs, so for example, the coal jobs in the two charts have to be added together to get total employment. Wind and solar, of course, don’t need employees to produce their “fuel.” Charts come from DOE.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Energy takes stock of energy employment in the U.S. and comes up with fresh evidence of the rapid transformation of our nation’s electricity supply: more people today work in the solar and wind industries than in natural gas extraction and coal mining.

According to the January 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, 373,807 Americans now work in solar electric power generation, while 101,738 people work in wind. By comparison, a total of 362,118 people work in the natural gas sector, including both fuel supply and generating plants.

Total coal employment stands at 160,119. And while renewable power employment grew by double digits last year—25% for solar, 32% for wind—total job numbers actually declined across the fossil fuel sectors, where machines now do most of the work.

If generating electricity employs a lot of people, not generating it employs even more. The number of Americans working in energy efficiency rose to almost 2.2 million, an increase of 133,000 jobs over the year before.

Those are nationwide figures, but the report helpfully breaks down the numbers by state. For Virginia, 2016 was a watershed year. In spite of the fact that our solar industry is still in its infancy and we have no operating wind farms yet, more Virginians now work in renewable energy than in the state’s storied coal industry. A mere 2,647 Virginians continue to work in coal mining, compared to 4,338 in solar energy and 1,260 in wind.

Dwarfing all of these numbers is the statistic for employment in energy efficiency in Virginia: 75,552.

2 thoughts on “While U.S. leaders were worrying about coal jobs, clean energy snatched the lead: even Virginia now has more people working in solar than coal.

  1. Ivy, why would anyone characterize “number of people employed in the solar industry” as “fresh evidence of the rapid transformation of our nation’s electricity supply”, or that “clean energy has snatched the lead” – when solar provides just over 1% of U.S. electricity? Combined with generation data, it’s only evidence of the wastefulness and expense of solar.

    If we could use disingenuous salesmanship to generate electricity, you might be on to something.

    • Bob, maybe you missed the news that more solar capacity was installed in 2016 than any other electric source? Compared to exactly zero for your beloved nuclear. I know you’re bummed about the complete collapse of prospects for new nuclear power, and the situation at Vogtle pretty much puts the nail in that coffin: http://blog.ucsusa.org/mike-jacobs/solar-vs-nuclear. At some point you’re going to have to get past the denial stage and get on board the clean energy revolution. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be putting your time to productive use.

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