Nearly 5,500 Michigan workers in clean energy filed jobless claims last month while thousands more are expected as the coronavirus-related economic downturn continues to spread.
A report released yesterday by a business and environmental advocacy group showed more than 106,000 clean energy job losses across the U.S. in March. That includes 5,446 in Michigan, or 4.1 percent of the state’s clean energy job sector. Only California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts had more clean energy job losses than Michigan.
Moreover, thousands more job losses are expected for April as stay-home orders here and in other states were tightened this month. The report estimates more than 500,000 clean energy jobs may be lost in the months ahead.
The report — released by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), the American Council on Renewable Energy, E4TheFuture and BW Research Partnership — analyzed U.S. Department of Labor data for March. The sectors include renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean vehicles and battery storage.
“Clean energy is a huge and important part of our economy,” E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “They have been growing faster than the rest of the economy for at least the past five years. All of this came to a screeching halt last month with COVID-19.”
The job losses from COVID-19 came as the clean energy sector reached 3.4 million jobs nationwide, growing 10.4 percent since 2015. Clean energy employs nearly three times as many workers than the fossil fuel industry, according to the report.
More than half of the job losses came from the energy efficiency sector, followed by renewable energy, clean vehicles, grid and storage, and clean fuels, according to the report.
According to the report, Michigan had 125,365 clean energy jobs across these sectors in the fourth quarter of 2019. More than 85,000 — or 68 percent — are in energy efficiency, which includes HVAC and renewable heating and cooling, lighting and advanced materials. The Holland-Grand Haven and Niles-Benton Harbor metro areas rank in the top 10 nationally for small cities with a percentage of clean energy as total employment. The report ranks Michigan second in the U.S. for rural clean energy jobs.
The report also makes the case for including the clean energy sector in future federal stimulus packages. Already lobbyists are pushing for extending or freezing federal tax incentives for renewable energy, while investment could be directed to grid modernization and making buildings more energy efficient to help spur job growth, advocates say.