Devastating Efficiency Job Losses Highlight the Need for Congressional Action
Last month we got the first real sense of the impact of COVID-19 on energy efficiency jobs with an analysis from E2, E4TheFuture, and their partners, which reported on March’s job losses. While we braced ourselves for April’s numbers, yesterday’s follow-up report showed that the news is even worse than we thought. And without help from Congress, it doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon.
According to the new report, more than 413,000 U.S. energy efficiency workers – nearly 20% of the EE workforce – lost their jobs in March and April since the nation began responding in earnest to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means that in April alone, 310,200 workers in the efficiency sector were laid off.
The total clean energy workforce lost 447,200 jobs last month. That loss represents more than double the past three years of industry wide growth. And just like the last report, these numbers do not include workers who had their hours cut or who are temporarily furloughed and not seeking new employment.
March’s report projected clean energy industries would lose half a million jobs by the end of June 2020. Yesterday’s report shows us that we have already surpassed that projection two months ahead of schedule. Based on that, and on forecasts from clean energy trade groups and reports from individual companies in the industry, the report’s authors now project that the clean energy sector will lose 850,000 jobs by the end of the second quarter unless actions are taken to support the industry and its workers.
Federal Action Urgently Needed
The immediate losses in the efficiency sector are mostly construction workers at small businesses who can’t get into homes or buildings to work due to safety concerns. But the slowdown ultimately threatens the entire efficiency sector, including manufacturing of insulation, windows and other components, engineering, and professional services. We will need to jumpstart the sector with help from Congress by investing in programs that will accelerate energy efficiency work when it’s safe to do so.
Congress has passed several rounds of immediate COVID-19 relief and leaders in the House of Representatives have proposed even more. And while immediate relief is necessary to help communities across the country get through the worst effects of the pandemic, we will need long-term investment to keep Americans employed and to support that kind of social services that we desperately need in a time of crisis. If we are to fend of the worst projections (or terrible outcomes beyond them – which we already know can happen), then Congress must act with an eye to recovery to protect these jobs.
The Alliance has developed several policy proposals to support the recovery of the efficiency sector when it is safe to resume work. These include enhanced tax incentives for energy efficiency improvements in homes and buildings, funding for retrofits of critical public facilities to improve efficiency and resilience, and a new small business energy efficiency program that would provide matching grants to existing utility efficiency programs.
Before the pandemic, energy efficiency jobs were growing at steady rate. The job losses we are seeing now are devastating. But with investments like those in the Alliance proposals, Congress can not only protect the current workforce, it can help the efficiency sector grow beyond pre-pandemic levels. Please join us in working with Congress to help make that happen.