Around 1.1 million green energy jobs could be created in the coming 25 years thanks to the renewable energy transition in Texas. That’s according to a new report published by 27 labor unions with Cornell University.
Among the report’s headline proposals were a tripling of wind power generation and a six-fold growth in solar energy. Building the facilities and infrastructure to bring this about would create 455,000 wind power jobs and 335,400 openings in the solar industry, the report calculates.
The Texas chapter of the AFL/CIO released the report to coincide with the launch of the Texas Climate Jobs Project. This initiative involves labor unions promoting well-paying jobs for workers in clean energy sectors. “We have this transition that’s underway in Texas and really no plan to make sure these jobs being created are actually good jobs,” Bo Delp, executive director of the Project, told the Houston Chronicle. “Workers do not have a seat at the table.”
The initiative aims to bring together unions, industry leaders, and politicians to support a series of recommendations. In addition to expanding wind and solar power output, the report proposes energy efficiency measures for Texas schools and the transition of all buses to electric vehicles. Proposals for improving the power grid, expanding the use of carbon capture technology, and installing solar panels on school buildings also feature.
The report presents job creation predictions for each recommendation. For example, building electric buses and government vehicles would create 3,401 manufacturing jobs.
Green energy jobs present a viable alternative to oil and gas
Supporters of the Texas Climate Jobs Project want stringent employment standards worked out for these new industries. They say that this would help workers enjoy comparable working conditions to the oil and gas sector.
Rick Levy, president of the Texas AFL/CIO, points out that an oil and gas worker could potentially earn up to a six-figure salary. By contrast, new green energy jobs often pay about half that. The median salary for a solar panel installer is $46,470. Wind turbine technicians have a median salary of $56,230. Even though these occupations are among the fastest-growing energy jobs, they still make up a relatively small minority of overall employment in the energy sector.
“Yes, they have some rapid growth of late, but it’s still a very small amount of jobs as opposed to 160,000 involved in upstream oil and gas in Texas,” explains Jason Modglin, head of the Texas Association of Energy Producers. “It’s alarming for people to hear politicians, especially in D.C. say, ‘Well, just get another job.’ Because those jobs aren’t readily available and don’t pay at the same rate as traditional energy jobs.”
Another key element of the report is the recognition that emissions from industrial operations won’t go away. About 42 percent of carbon emissions in Texas come from industrial operations. Procedures like manufacturing plastics are not easy to decarbonize. To cope with this challenge, the Texas Climate Jobs Project proposed investing more into carbon capture technology.
Wayne Lord, president of Plumbers Local Union 68, believes some pipefitters currently employed in oil and gas could find jobs in carbon capture. They could construct pipelines to transport carbon from its source to storage facilities. Additionally, jobs in energy efficiency and water efficiency could open up. “We’ve had extremely rough hurricanes, then we turn right around and we have a freeze that crippled the whole state,” he says. “We know something’s got to be done.”
What could these green energy jobs mean for you?
For workers in the Texas energy sector, this report indicates the green energy jobs that could be on offer for you as the energy transition gathers pace. However, it’s worth keeping a sense of proportion. The headline figure in the report of 1.1 million jobs is spread over a lengthy 25-year period. For example, the report’s authors calculate that retrofitting all Texas schools with energy-efficient appliances and solar panels could create around 100,000 jobs. This would average to around 5,000 jobs per year, according to report co-author Lara Skinner.
In addition, it’s important to bear in mind that the report didn’t examine the number of oil and gas jobs that would be lost over the same period if the recommendations were implemented.
If you’re a Texas energy consumer, the plan laid out in the Texas Climate Jobs Project report would mean significant growth in renewables in your state. As a result, your electricity provider would rely on solar and wind power for a greater proportion of your supply needs. The proposal to strengthen the grid’s infrastructure could help make your power supply more reliable.
Jordan Smith is a writer and researcher with expertise in renewable energy and deregulated energy markets. Jordan has written extensively on the deregulated energy market in Texas and the challenges confronted in the clean energy transition, and conducted research projects within the energy industry. Further articles by Jordan can be found at SaveOnEnergy.com.