FEB 02, 2017 7:16 AM PST

Solar Brings More Jobs than Coal, Gas, and Oil Combined!

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recently released a report documenting 2016’s growth in Electric Power Generation - and the numbers are a win for clean energy activists! According to the report solar power employed 43% of the Electric Power Generation sector's workforce last year while fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) combined accounted for only 22%.

DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster explained the significance behind these stats:"This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy. Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016." 

US Department of Energy

A graph detailing Electric Power Generation employment by technology by the DOE

Speaking of job growth, that 14% that represents the energy sector looks particularly good for solar, which includes both photovoltaic and concentrated. Solar energy added 73,615 new jobs to the U.S. economy over the past year while wind added a further 24,650, states the report. Those new solar jobs account for a 25% increase in the U.S. solar workforce in 2016, which tallied a total of approximately 374,000 people employed in solar energy. Coal, gas and oil power generation all together reached about 187,000 workers.

"Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the Electric Power Generation sector," the report states. "This is largely due to the construction related to the significant buildout of new solar generation capacity."

This spike in solar sector jobs is caused by an increase in necessary construction job that are pertinent to expanding solar generation capacity. According to the report, employment in the coal sector has fallen 53% over the last decade; meanwhile employment from natural gas increased 33% while solar expanded 5,000%!

Photo: EcoWatch

"The electric generation mix in the United States is changing, driven by the transition of coal-fired power plants to natural gas and the increase in low carbon sources of energy,” states the report. “These shifts in electric generation source are mirrored in the sector’s changing employment profile, as the share of natural gas, solar, and wind workers increases, while coal mining and other related employment is declining.”

The news of these numbers (especially coming from a government-backed report) are a relief for many of those dreading President Trump’s anti-climate campaign, which he is waging mostly in the name of job growth. Now climate activists have a strong pot of evidence to continue for moving forward with clean energies.

Sources: Forbes, The Independent UK, EcoWatch

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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