Mass. Clean Energy Jobs Are Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — For the first time since the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center started its annual count in 2010, Massachusetts saw a decrease in clean energy jobs in 2020 though MassCEC officials said gains in 2021 show the underlying strength and potential of the industry.

The clean energy industry ended 2019 with 113,968 workers. But the onset and early months of the pandemic led to the loss of 19,800 jobs, about a 17 percent drop, and by mid-2020, the industry's workforce here had fallen to about 94,168 workers, MassCEC said in its annual industry report for 2021.

The second half of 2020 saw the return of about 7,000 jobs, resulting in a net loss of 12,800 clean energy jobs or about 11 percent of the workforce in 2020, MassCEC said. At the end of 2020, there were 101,208 people working in the industry in Massachusetts. Last year saw that rebound continued, but at a slower pace than statewide job growth. The clean energy sector added about 4,000 jobs in 2021 and ended the year with an estimated 105,180 jobs.

"While a full recovery has been delayed in part due to ongoing pandemic uncertainty and supply chain and labor shortage constraints, the state did see some modest gains in wind energy, electric vehicles, and energy storage," MassCEC CEO Jennifer Daloisio said. "Significantly, the early estimates of data through December 2021 show this recovery continuing, underscoring the resilience of the state's clean energy industry."

In the decade between 2010 and 2020, the clean energy industry in Massachusetts added 40,934 jobs, which represents 23 percent of all jobs created in the state during that time period.

Clean energy jobs represent about 3 percent of the Massachusetts workforce and the industry accounts for more than $13.7 billion in gross state product, the MassCEC report said. The largest branches of the industry are the energy efficiency, demand management, and clean heating and cooling sectors, which together account for 72 percent of jobs. Small firms (those with 10 or fewer workers) make up 61 percent of the industry.

Since its last report, MassCEC said, electric vehicle jobs and wind jobs have each grown by 8 percent and energy storage jobs have grown 1 percent. Between 2020 and 2021, the state's wind energy industry added about 160 jobs to top out at 2,282 workers. The solar industry lost nearly 1,800 jobs over the same time, but still employs more than six times as many people in the Bay State as the wind sector (15,096 solar jobs).

But with the nation's first major offshore wind farm due to be built over the next year and a half, and with at least three more projects in the state's queue this decade, MassCEC CEO Daloisio said the wind industry "is poised to see unprecedented growth in the next few years."

Speaking at an event alongside Gov. Charlie Baker and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, Daloisio said Massachusetts offered the highest median clean energy wages in the country as of December 2020.

The latest report also found that the Bay State's clean energy industry relies heavily on small business, with more than 60 percent of businesses employing 10 or fewer workers, Daloisio said.

"In order to meet our 2030 ambitious climate goals, we will need to increase the pace at which we decarbonize our buildings, electrify our transportation and deploy clean electricity generated by offshore wind," she said. "We will need to continue to grow and develop a well-trained and qualified clean energy workforce and one that includes individuals and communities who have been historically underrepresented."

While the state's initial forays into offshore wind prioritized affordability of the cleaner power, there has been a shift among some lawmakers and Baker toward a preference to maximize the economic development and job benefits the new and growing industry could provide.

When the House passed legislation last month to alter the offshore wind procurement process, create new tax credits and incentives for offshore wind companies, and more, Rep. Jeff Roy said the bill was "carefully calibrated to attract world-class manufacturing facilities" and to invest in "intensive workforce training initiatives." The House chairman of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee said the legislation sought to build "an industry that minimizes potential impacts on the maritime industries and coastal environment while maximizing the benefits for our environmental justice communities."

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Baker last fall filed his own bill to reshape how Massachusetts secures offshore wind and to invest $750 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to establish a clean energy investment fund that his office said would represent "the single largest investment in the clean energy economy in Massachusetts to date."

Senate leaders have said their branch will tackle a broader climate bill this month and are due Thursday afternoon to discuss their plan in greater detail.

Baker, Theoharides and Daloisio on Thursday toured MassCEC's Wind Technology Testing Center, where work continues on turbines and other equipment that will be deployed in the burgeoning offshore wind industry.

"Wayne Gretzky once said you don't chase the puck where it is, you chase the puck where it's going," Baker said. "In this particular case, this is a great example of Massachusetts understanding and appreciating there was an opportunity to create a very significant offshore wind industry up and down the East Coast and for Massachusetts to play a major role in that. That was over 10 years ago, and here we are today."

The governor pointed to his $750 million bill and his proposal to launch a clean energy innovation fund, likening the opportunities available in the renewables sector to the life sciences industry that is now a pillar of the Massachusetts economy.

"We are now, for all intents and purposes, probably the most important destination location for discovery in life sciences anywhere in the world," Baker said. "There's an opportunity for us to play exactly the same role in the next generation of energy, and I would hate for us to miss it because people can't quite see all the way to the future."

Written by Colin Young & Chris Lisinski/SHNS.

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