When E2 first started telling the story of clean energy jobs in America several years ago, naysayers in Washington were claiming clean energy was as make-believe as pixie dust and unicorns.
The Solyndra failure was still fresh in the news. Coal, gas and nuclear were considered by many as the only ways to power our future. Clean energy was framed as a political issue, not an economic or environmental issue. And nobody knew how many people actually worked in clean energy.
In March, E2 released the most comprehensive analysis of clean energy jobs ever done. Our Clean Jobs America report shows that 2.5 million Americans work in renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean vehicles and related businesses.
To put it in perspective, that’s more people than work in real estate or in agriculture in the United States. It’s more than work in the industries of fossil fuel extraction, mining, pipelines and railroads – combined. That’s more people than live in Nebraska – and a dozen other states, for that matter.
Clean Jobs America came on the heels of Clean Jobs Midwest, a separate report we produced with Chicago-based partner Clean Energy Trust that tracks clean energy jobs down to the legislative and congressional district level in 12 Midwest states. These reports come after months of work with a wide variety of partners, and take our clean energy advocacy that we began showcasing years ago with our www.cleanenergyworksforus.org Web site to a whole new level.
So why is E2’s clean energy jobs work important?
First, it’s helping change and drive the narrative around clean energy and climate change. When we talk about jobs, we open new lines of dialogue beyond discussions of environmental problems. In a positive way, it gets E2 and our issues in front of audiences we couldn’t reach otherwise. The more than 100 media outlets that covered our recent job reports, for instance, range from Fortune and CNBC to The Mining Journal and Midwest Energy News.
Second, it opens doors with lawmakers and policymakers. What politician doesn’t like to talk about jobs? After our reports were released, we received inquiries from several lawmakers in key states asking for more information. When E2 members meet with Congress to discuss clean energy policies during our April 18-20 Washington advocacy trip, our jobs data will be a huge advocacy tool. This data also is key for meetings with state lawmakers.
Third, these reports give our allies and partners new tools for their work, effectively creating a force multiplier for our advocacy. With Clean Jobs Midwest, for instance, E2 collaborated with groups such as the Missouri Energy Initiative and Renew Wisconsin, which are amplifying the findings and using them in their own advocacy work in those states.
The new jobs reports are only one way we’re telling the story of the importance of clean energy for our economy and our environment.
In Chicago on April 15, E2 will host an event at Northwestern University where we’ll release Clean Power Players, a guidebook for young people who want to get into clean energy. The release will include a panel discussion with young clean entrepreneurs featured in the guidebook. It’s part of a new effort by E2 to bring more young people into our membership, and one we hope to replicate in other parts of the country.
In New York on April 27, we’ll release Clean Jobs New York, an in-depth study of jobs in that state, as part of a campaign E2 is involved in called New Yorkers for Clean Power.
And over at www.cleanenergyworksforus.org, we continue to put a face on clean energy by telling the stories of E2 members and others like Greg Smith, president of Energy Optimizers in Ohio and Matt Reuscher, a former coal miner turned solar installer in Missouri.
Our work is making a tangible difference.
Today, states from New York to California are pushing policies to dramatically increase their renewable energy, in part because of the jobs and economic benefits.
While coal, gas and nuclear continue to decline, renewable energy – and the jobs that come with it – continues to soar, rising to record heights in 2015.
And remember those Washington naysayers who came out en masse in the wake of Solyndra?
A few months ago, a group of Republican House members for the first time co-sponsored a resolution recognizing humans’ roles in climate change – and pushing for more clean energy as a solution.
In the Senate, a group of Republican senators recently started a working group to address climate change and bolster clean energy innovation.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) gave this explanation about the sudden interest in clean energy at the Conservative Clean Energy Summit late last year:
“Let me sum it up in one word: Jobs.”
Music to our ears.
Bob Keefe is E2's Executive Director.