Statement of the Hon. Jason Crow on Creating the Clean Energy Workforce
Washington, October 29, 2019
As the Congressman from Colorado’s 6th district, I understand the importance of clean and renewable energy for our environment and our economy. We know that climate change is impacting towns and communities across the country---from more intense and frequent wildfires and tropical storms from the west to east coast and rising sea levels in coastal cities like Miami to nonstop rain damaging crops in farms across rural America. In my home state, we know the impact on the summer and winter recreation economy very well.
Protecting our environment and public health was not always a partisan issue, and it shouldn’t be today. Not only does climate change pose a risk to our economy, and the health and well-being of all Americans but as a former Army Ranger, I also understand that this is a national security threat.
For these reasons, it’s critical we move to more clean energy and away from fossil fuels by producing products and providing services supporting bold and practical environmental and energy policy for America’s future.
Doing so will not only be good environmental policy but also help transform our economy to be more resilient in the future. Through innovation and entrepreneurship, we can address the harmful impacts of climate change while also creating millions of good paying jobs here in the U.S that will lead to sustained economic growth.
And like they do in many other sectors, the clean energy economy presents an opportunity for small firms to lead the way by reducing emissions, supporting renewable energy, creating clean energy jobs, increasing efficiencies, and reducing their overall environmental footprint.
From producing biofuels and installing energy efficient equipment to manufacturing components and auditing buildings, clean energy businesses can be found across Colorado. In my home State, we now have over 65,000 jobs in the clean energy sector, creating a cleaner energy supply while growing the jobs of the future. In fact, Denver, neighboring my district, ranks eighth out of 75 large U.S. cities in clean energy. Across the country, there are over 3 million clean energy jobs and I believe renewable sources of energy such as geothermal, wind, and solar power, is the tech of the future.
And since many of the businesses in the clean energy economy take advantage of their local natural resources and do not require massive capital investment like traditional fossil fuels, this sector of the economy is ripe for innovators, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.
Of the nearly 360,000 energy efficiency businesses in the United States, roughly 45 percent of them have between one and five workers. The same goes for the solar industry, where 70 percent of businesses have fewer than 50 employees. But while clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs nearly 3-to-1, clean energy still provides only 16 percent of the country’s overall energy needs. Clearly, there is plenty more work to be done and room for these companies to grow and expand.
But that ability to expand is hindered by the ongoing problems we hear from many small businesses who are unable to find qualified workers to meet their needs. An aging workforce combined with a growing skills gap among our current workforce is keeping small and large firms from reaching their full potential.
So, while demand for clean and renewable energy has continued to grow - due to falling prices of wind and solar, better incentives and tax credits, and widespread support for environmental responsibility from individuals and corporations – businesses are having a harder time hiring the staff necessary to meet this demand.
This is why we are here today. To support the rapid transition of our energy sources and create a forward-looking economy, a massive workforce mobilization effort will be required. And to do that, we need to train Americans of all ages to do these jobs. This should include transitioning the current fossil fuel workforce to ensure that they continue to receive a paycheck, health care, pensions, and other necessities that comes from an energy job.
This can be done through targeted apprenticeships and job training programs supported by the Department of Labor and partnerships between local businesses, governments, and academia. It can also be accomplished with the support of labor unions that already have apprenticeship and certification programs in place to train current workers transitioning out of the fossil fuel industry and the next generation of workers for high paying jobs with quality health care and retirement benefits.
We know that small businesses in a variety of industries such as construction, manufacturing, architecture, and the STEM fields all contribute to the clean energy economy. This is a result of Federal support for renewables, as well as tax incentives for clean energy and energy efficiency.
But to reach its full potential, workforce development and training are essential components to creating and sustaining the clean energy of the 21st century. I look forward to hearing from our expert witnesses today on how we can best train the next generation of clean energy workers and empower small businesses so the U.S. can once again be the world leader in energy development, innovation, and environmental protection.