Nearly 1 in 5 US clean energy jobs wiped out by pandemic: Report

Stay-home coronavirus orders and a weakened economy have slowed demand for energy-efficient systems, a new report says.

Wind farm
A wind farm in Movave, California, United States, where the clean energy industry lost 27,000 jobs in May alone as states continued to implement lockdown orders to combat the spread of the coronavirus [File: Mike Blake/Reuters]

The United States clean energy sector has lost more than 620,000 jobs, or 18 percent of its workforce, as stay-at-home orders and a weakened economy have slowed demand for solar panels and energy-efficient systems and curbed production of electric vehicles and clean fuels, a report published on Monday showed.

The industry lost 27,000 jobs in May, a slower rate of decline than in April and March, when states first implemented lockdown orders to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the analysis of US unemployment data conducted by BW Research Partnership.

While they represent a tiny fraction of the nation’s total job losses during the period, the clean energy industry’s contraction is a devastating blow to an industry that had been growing rapidly.

The numbers appeared to be on track to fall short of a forecast BW made last month that the sector would suffer 850,000 job losses by the end of June.

The report warned, however, that many of the sector’s jobs are being supported by a federal programme to help cover the payroll costs of small businesses hurt by the novel coronavirus disruption. The expiration of that programme “may result in a fresh round of layoffs in clean energy if there is no further intervention”, it said.

Wind and solar companies have been pleading with Congress to extend deadlines for projects to qualify for sunsetting federal tax credits to help relieve the effects caused by pandemic-related construction delays.

As with previous months, the energy efficiency sector suffered the biggest losses during the month, representing about 70 percent of the total.

Renewable energy lost 4,300 jobs in May, while clean vehicles, transmission, distribution and storage lost 3,300 jobs. The clean fuels sector lost 700 jobs during the month.

Source: Reuters