US Q1 clean energy job growth off

Inaction by the US Congress on key clean energy tax policies, coupled with attacks on state renewable energy programs and low natural gas prices led to 53.3% decline in first quarter clean energy job announcements, according to a new report.

“Because of ongoing regulatory uncertainty and other energy sector trends, businesses held back investments that would likely have led to more hiring in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors,” notes the report by Environmental Entrepreneurs, a non-partisan, not-for-profit clean energy business advocacy group known as E2.

Clean energy job announcements totaled 12,000 in first quarter 2013.

On the federal policy front, E2 cites the move to let the renewable electricity production tax credit and those supporting commercial and residential construction retrofits expire at the end of last year as hurting sector job creation.

It also notes that clean and renewable energy mandates and programs in certain states including Kansas, Indiana, Ohio and Oklahoma have been under attack, which had a chilling effect on private sector investment.  

“Congress pulled the plug on smart clean energy tax policies at the end of last year, while in the states, lawmakers are getting bullied by special interests that don’t want our country to produce more clean, renewable energy,” says E2 executive director Bob Keefe. “Guess who’s suffering as a result? American workers and businesses.”

He adds: “Given the muddied policy environment on clean energy, low overall jobs numbers were expected. Fortunately, it’s not too late for lawmakers to steer clean energy and clean transportation job growth back on track.

The wind sector alone lost about 30,000 last year in the run-up to the PTC expiration.

In the first quarter this year, Idaho led all states in clean energy job announcements with 802 followed by Texas, 791; California, M660; Missouri, 449 and New York 435.

Large-scale solar during the period showed a significant decline in job announcements to 1,400 with utilities in western states reaching or exceeding renewable mandate targets. Uncertainty over whether Congress will extend the federal investment tax credit for solar has led some developers to reconsider large projects given their long lead times, according to the report.

E2 says that three main opportunities exist this year to help clean energy rebound. These include Congress reinstating the PTC, strong defense of state renewable portfolio standards and new standards that the US Environmental Protection Agency will unveil in June to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Carbon limits will accelerate investment by utilities in cleaner energy generation sources.