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Report expects decrease in clean energy jobs to be temporary

Projected to add 1,500 workers in 2020, Nevada’s clean energy economy lost nearly 4,000 after a year driven by the COVID-19 economic crisis, but a new report from Environmental Entrepreneurs sees clean energy as the state’s leader for energy sector jobs and the best bet to power a long-lasting recovery.

At the start of 2020, 33,700 workers in Nevada were employed in energy efficiency, solar, wind, energy storage, clean vehicles and other clean energy fields, accounting for more jobs than all other energy sectors combined, including fossil fuels. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit last March, clean energy businesses had grown nearly 40% since 2017, according to Clean Jobs Nevada 2020.

Jobs in the state’s clean energy economy were also higher-paying and more likely to come with benefits, according to a separate recent report from E2, the American Council on Renewable Energy and the Clean Energy Leadership Institute. The sector’s median wage in 2019 ($20.55) was 17% higher than the overall statewide median and 7% higher than the nationwide median. Jobs in clean energy were found more likely to include health care and retirement benefits.

But the sector was temporarily derailed because of impacts from the COVID-19 crisis. While 1,200 jobs have been recovered since the sector’s unemployment peaked in May, 75% of workers who lost their jobs between March and May remain out of work. Heading into 2020, Nevada clean energy businesses expected to increase employment 4.3%, or about 1,500 jobs.

Clean Jobs Nevada believes the state is at a critical juncture to reclaim its recent job growth trajectory, create thousands of new jobs quickly and speed the state’s overall recovery from the pandemic. By implementing new and existing clean energy policy as described in Nevada’s State Climate Strategy — such as a zero-emission vehicles, advanced clean truck standards and increasing energy efficiency targets for the building sector — Nevada policymakers have an opportunity to leverage the clean energy sector for a stronger recovery.

“With Nevada workers still hurting from the economic crisis, leveraging the clean energy sector’s massive job growth potential needs to be a priority for lawmakers,” said Susan Nedell, E2 Mountain West advocate. “Tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs across multiple industries and throughout the state, plus millions of dollars in investment, are on the line to rebuild and strengthen Nevada’s economy.”

In addition to detailing sector-by-sector employment, Clean Jobs Nevada broke down jobs at the city, county and congressional district levels.

Energy efficiency employed almost 12,000 workers at year-end 2019; renewable energy employed over 11,200 workers, including more than 10,000 in solar energy; grid modernization and energy storage companies employed more than 9,000 after growing more than 400% since 2017; jobs related to clean vehicles, including hybrid-electric and electric vehicles, employed 1,300; and clean fuels companies employed 138.

Other key findings include that 58% of clean energy workers were employed at companies with fewer than 20 employees; 17% of construction jobs in Nevada were in clean energy occupations, from solar installers and site workers to electricians, HVAC technicians, lighting technicians, carpenters and others who work in energy efficiency; Nevada ranked 10th in the country for clean energy unionization, with 9% of clean energy workers part of a union, behind only Washington, California, and Oregon in the West and well above the nation’s economy-wide average; more than four in ten Nevada clean energy workers were of nonwhite or Hispanic ethnicity in 2019; clean energy accounts for 55% of all energy sector jobs in Nevada, and seven times more jobs than fossil fuels in the state; and rural areas in Nevada are home to more than 1,300 of the state’s clean energy jobs.

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