Clean energy jobs pay more than the national median but greater unionization is needed

Clean energy jobs pay 25 percent more than the national median wage and are more likely to include health and other benefits, according to a study of federal occupational wage and benefits. The study, from E2, the American Council for Renewable Energy and the Clean Energy Leadership Institute, looked at workers in renewable energy, energy efficiency, grid modernization, battery storage and electric vehicles and found these jobs earned an average median wage of $48,000 a year, compared to an average median national wage of $38,000 last year. Wind energy workers earned the most, at roughly $26 an hour or $52,000 a year, and many clean energy jobs pay better than traditional fossil fuel jobs. (Houston Chronicle)

A new report from BW Research Partnership has found that, in 2019, clean energy jobs paid 25% more than the national median, with some states seeing nearly 30% higher hourly wages than their own median.OCTOBER 22, 2020 TIM SYLVIA Clean energy jobs pay more

Clean energy jobs paid 25% more than the national median in 2019, according to a new report, released by BW Research Partnership for Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), the American Council on Renewable Energy, and the Clean Energy Leadership Institute.

According to the report, workers in renewable energy, energy efficiency, grid modernization and storage, clean fuels and clean vehicles earned a median hourly wage of $23.89 in 2019 compared with the national median wage of $19.14. The median hourly income in the solar industry was actually higher than the clean energy average, coming in at $24.48/hour, 31% higher than the national median.

It’s not just higher wages that clean energy industries have to offer, as the report also finds that the unionization rate across all clean energy occupations came in at 9%, which is slightly higher than the national private-sector average of 6%. This is not true of solar, however, with an average unionization rate of 4%, which is lower than the national private-sector average.

Additionally, clean energy jobs are more likely to come with health care and retirement benefits than the rest of the private sector.

“These jobs pay better, come with better benefits – and they’re also helping fight climate change and the growing economic costs that come with it,” said Bob Keefe, executive director at E2. “We need policies that ensure these good-paying jobs continue to grow and are available to every American in every state.”

On the state level

While clean energy jobs paid 25% more on the national level, there are certain states where clean energy jobs paid considerably more than the state median, which may be higher than the national median. Clean energy industries in six states paid wages at least 20% higher than the statewide median, led by California and Texas at 29.2% and 27.6% more than the state median, with Louisiana (24.9%), Massachusetts (23.2%) and New York (20.9%) rounding out the top-5.

As for which state paid its clean energy workers the highest average hourly salary, that designation goes to Massachusetts, where the median hourly clean energy income was $29.84. Massachusetts was followed by the District of Columbia ($27.56), California ($27.49), New York ($27.07) and Alaska ($25.75).

The comparison would not be complete without looking at how renewable generation jobs compare to jobs in fossil fuels. The report found that jobs in wind and solar combined for a $24.85 median hourly wage, while jobs in coal, natural gas and petroleum fuels registered at $24.37 an hour.

While that gap might not be as significant as some may hope, a key consideration is that clean energy industries employed about three times more workers than fossil fuels did in 2019 and that clean energy jobs are available in every state, regardless of geology or geography.


Analysis: Biden’s clean-energy ‘revolution’ faces challenge to match fossil-fuel jobs, pay

By Valerie VolcoviciLaura Sanicola

9 MIN READWASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, seeking to allay concerns that his plan to fight climate change would harm the economy, has promised a “clean energy revolution that creates millions of unionized middle-class jobs” if he’s elected.

That vision, however, would require policy makers and clean-energy companies to overcome some major challenges in replacing the number and quality of fossil-fuel jobs that could be lost in a transition away from coal and oil.

Union representation, pay and benefits in the fast-growing wind and solar power industries at the center of a clean energy transition lag those in oil, gas and coal, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, academic studies and interviews with labor experts and industry officials.

Solar and wind energy installations, once built, also tend to require fewer workers to run than oil and gas infrastructure. And both industries rely heavily on imported components to keep costs down, potentially limiting their U.S. job creation.

Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan envisions a massive shift to cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind over the next three decades. It would also aim to create jobs across a variety of other sectors, including construction, power transmission and electric vehicle manufacturing and charging infrastructure.

The Biden campaign acknowledges the prospect of short-term economic pain as the nation builds a cleaner energy infrastructure.

There is no doubt we will suffer some job loss because of this transition, but there will be opportunity,” said Lonny Stephenson, a member of Biden’s transition team and president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers, a labor union.

Biden campaign spokesman Matt Hill said the candidate would work with labor leaders to “ensure that clean energy investments are creating jobs with the opportunity to join a union across all energy sectors.”

If elected, Biden plans to issue executive orders to boost demand for U.S.-made products and push legislation to help workers unionize, his campaign said. His plan also calls for retraining and other support for traditional energy workers caught up in the transition.

President Donald Trump, throughout his campaign, has called Biden’s focus on climate change a recipe for economic devastation. “Biden’s ‘clean energy’ plan is nothing more than him risking millions of American jobs,” said campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager.

Selling clean-energy as an economic boon is critical to gaining union support in fossil-fuel sectors, said Jason Walsh, president of the Blue Green Alliance, an association of labor unions and environmental groups, which supports Biden.

Labor will only fully endorse this shift to a clean energy economy if their rank and file members are getting jobs,” he said.

While Biden has been leading Trump in most national opinion polls heading into the Nov. 3 election, the contest is tight in swing states crucial to an electoral victory.


In North Dakota, where oil-field workers can often make six-figure annual pay, the oil market crash during the coronavirus pandemic has made the prospect of wind jobs more appealing.

Gerard Tessier, 25, moved from Pennsylvania to North Dakota to study to become a wind technician at Lake Region State College. He’s eager to avoid oil’s boom-and-bust cycles but worries about pay in the wind business.

“My hope would be that the industry becomes more unionized,” he said.

The United Steelworkers represented nearly 18% of U.S. petroleum refining, pipeline transportation and pipeline construction workers in 2018, according to calculations of data from the U.S. Department of Labor. By contrast, solar workers are unionized at a rate of 4% and wind sector workers at 6%, according to the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, produced by a consortium of researchers and state energy officials using government statistics.

Fossil fuel workers also get better pay. Jobs in fossil-fuel power generation range from $70,310 to $81,460, compared with $46,850 to $64,330 for jobs in solar and wind generation, according to the consortium’s reports and 2019 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And there’s a benefit gap: Three-fourths of fossil fuel workers get health insurance, while estimates of coverage for clean-energy workers range between 32% and 57% percent, according to Bob Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Compensation is likely to rise naturally as the renewable energy industry grows and faces pressure to attract more workers, Sunrun, the biggest U.S. rooftop solar company told investors in a recent regulatory filing. Wind technician and solar panel installer are the first and third fastest growing U.S. jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The unionization of the industry’s labor force could also increase our labor costs,” Sunrun told investors.

But the wage and benefit gaps, at least for now, pose a political challenge for Biden in winning the support of energy workers and lawmakers for an ambitious clean-energy transition.

“I got into fossil-fuel work for the quality of life and the benefits, and the jobs I’m seeing listed in renewables just don’t offer those things,” said Charlie Sandoval, the 36-year old vice president of a local union that represents workers at several Los Angeles refineries.

The renewable energy industry is aware of the gaps and making early moves to address them.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, the industry’s biggest trade group, told Reuters that it is “ready and willing” to meet with union groups to address pay and labor representation.

Democrats are pushing a bill called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act that calls for sweeping change in labor laws. It would, for instance, weaken “right to work” laws in 27 states that prohibit unions from requiring workers to pay dues as a condition of employment. Biden also supports a Democratic bill written by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley that would offer renewable energy companies a 10% tax credit for providing good wages and benefits.

Stephenson, of Biden’s transition team, said the Democrats might need to take control of the U.S. Senate in the elections in order to pass such laws.

Stephenson said Biden’s plan would also create jobs beyond the wind and solar sectors. It includes goals, for instance, of updating the electric grid, boosting energy efficiency and installing a half million electric car chargers across the country by 2030.


Beyond policy fights, the clean-energy sector faces more fundamental challenges in matching the job creation of fossil-fuels industries. Labor leaders also worry that clean-energy jobs will not be created in the same communities where fossil fuel jobs are lost – or even in the United States.

The U.S. solar industry is highly dependent on foreign manufacturing with imports satisfying about 84% of U.S. demand for solar cells and modules in 2019, according to figures from the Blue Green Alliance. The American Wind Energy Association estimates that between 30% and 50% of a typical U.S. wind project’s value is currently imported.

“That’s not going to cut it if we want to move toward this new green economy,” said Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, which gave a last-minute endorsement to Biden last week.

Wind and solar projects, once installed, also do not require the kind of intensive labor seen at an oil field or a coal mine.

About 800,000 people were employed in the production, transmission, storage and combustion of natural gas and coal for electricity in the United States in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy and Employment Report. That compared to around 350,000 people in wind and solar – almost all of whom were employed in construction or installation, rather than in production or transmission, according to the report.

“I challenge you to drive past an operating solar field,” said Mark Johnson, business manager of the Tri-State Building Trades, representing 50 construction unions in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. “What you won’t see are cars parked where people are working.”

Reporting by Valeria Volcovici and Laura Sanicola; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Robert W. Howarth. Ideas and perspectives: is shale gas a major driver of recent increase in global atmospheric methane? Biogeosciences, 2019 DOI: 10.5194/bg-16-3033-2019

European Geosciences Union. “Fracking prompts global spike in atmospheric methane, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 August 2019. <>.


A solar module stress test for all seasons

Scientists led by NREL have developed a new stress testing protocol for PV modules, one designed to simultaneously expose modules to multiple stresses, as they likely would be in the field. Putting modules through this test, the researchers have already been able to reveal new information regarding backsheet degradation, and they promise new insights into other degradation mechanisms. OCTOBER 22, 2020 by MARK HUTCHINS

NREL scientists optimized a climate chamber to be able to be able to expose modules to multiple types of stress simultaneously.



From pv magazine global

In the field, PV modules have been observed to degrade and lose performance in a variety of ways. And the fast-moving nature of the technology often means new problems are being discovered as fast as the old ones are being solved.

Detailed standards exist to set a minimum standard for industry entry, however, it is widely acknowledged fall short in some areas, particularly when it comes to spotting new or little-understood degradation mechanisms. “Standards are not intended to serve as a guarantee of quality or reliability,” state scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in a newly published paper. “…the industry has been forced to design standards around known failures, as opposed to developing a more comprehensive testing regime that could detect unexpected failure modes more frequently.”

The group led by NREL set out to create such a comprehensive testing regime, focused on mimicking the overall natural environment modules are installed in, rather than pushing the limits of one particular failure mode. “Of great value to the industry would be a test that would provide more comprehensive identification of failure modes in new module designs and materials prior to field deployments,” the group states.

Key to the development of a testing protocol is the ability to simultaneously apply different stress factors to the modules. With this in mind, the group combined a climate chamber with xenon lamp solar simulators, hydraulic actuators for mechanical loading and power sources to apply voltage stress to the modules. The set up is described in the paper Advanced reliability assessments of photovoltaic modules and materials using combined-accelerated stress testing, published in Progress in Photovoltaics.

Backsheet cracking

To demonstrate the effectiveness of its protocol, the group compared it’s combined-accelerated stress testing (C-AST) results with the Module Accelerated Sequential Testing (MAST) protocol developed by DuPont to test the reliability of polymer backsheets, noting that backsheet is a common failure mode not well covered by current testing standards.

C-AST was shown to produce similar results to MAST in terms of backsheet cracking, while also producing reliable results for light induced degradation, cell cracking, soldering failures, corrosion and other issues. And the group is confident that its testing could be adopted as an industry standard in the future. “With the single C-AST protocol, we have the ability to screen for both known and unknown degradation modes, providing the possibility to minimize the many tests in the design qualification standard when used in conjunction with a single test protocol,” they conclude. “Potentially reducing the cost of certification testing and accelerating time to market.”

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