A nonpartisan business group that advocates for clean energy estimates that 403,000 jobs will be created by the 210 major energy projects announced since the Inflation Reduction Act took effect in mid-2022.
At least $86 billion in investments have been announced, with the biggest job gains in expected in the electric vehicles, battery storage and solar energy sectors, said the report issued Wednesday by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).
The IRA, signed August 2022, contains $500 billion in new federal spending to lower healthcare costs, increase tax revenues and address climate change by offering incentives so clean tech companies innovate and manufacture in the U.S.
“We’re in the biggest economic revolution we’ve seen in generations thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act and other clean energy policies,” said E2 executive director Bob Keefe.
The EV sector had the strongest response to the IRA and represents 58% of investments when the projects were being announced. This sector is expected to support 185,700 jobs annually for five years. Battery storage is expected to support 48,000 jobs, and solar is expected to support 35,000, both annually for five years.
New jobs indirectly related to the announced projects could include lumber mills hiring more staff to handle growing demand for construction materials and restaurants getting busier because construction workers at new factories are starting to eat there.
Form Energy is a company building multi-day batteries in Weirton, West Virginia that committed to creating 750 permanent jobs at its factory by 2028. CEO Mateo Jaramillo said the company’s ability to scale quickly is due to support from the state and federal governments.
“We would not have Weirton without West Virginia and we would not be going as fast as we’re going without the IRA,” Jaramillo said.
Christopher Chung, CEO of Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, a nonprofit public-private organization, said North Carolina is one of the many states in the South seeing growing clean technology investment. “Bipartisan legislation at the federal level has really juiced the pipelines of activity for us when it comes to economic development, especially attracting foreign direct investment,” he said.
Chung said many North Carolina community colleges partner with private companies to develop local training programs and job opportunities. “As community colleges develop a rhythm for training the type of workers these companies need, that’s going to enhance the appeal of our workforce and state as a business location to more and more these clean energy companies,” he said.
Such a significant investment in climate action comes with hurdles to cross in the labor sector, experts say.
Although investments in clean energy are “on hyperdrive,” other factors were supporting the clean energy labor transition before the IRA, said Joseph Kane, a researcher at the Brookings Institution nonprofit research organization. These factors include growing pressures to reduce planet-warming gases, changing consumer behaviors, and clean technology becoming cheaper and more efficient.
Kane said state and local leaders who receive funding for clean energy will have to be increasingly attentive to workforce development since some people aren’t aware of these job opportunities or don’t have access to relevant training.
Labor shortages in the clean energy sector, particularly in construction, manufacturing, and electrical work are notable, said Thomas Kwan, director of sustainability research at Schneider Electric, an energy management and industrial automation company.
Kwan also said other circumstances that could impact job creation include the permitting process for clean energy projects, which can be complex and lengthy, as well as critical mineral supply chain issues, such as geopolitical forces and changes that could happen in the broader energy market.
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