Published in Energy

Report: Michigan ranks third for COVID-19 clean energy job losses

BY Wednesday, May 13, 2020 02:11pm

Michigan lost nearly one-quarter of its clean energy workforce because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the 30,151 job losses since the outbreak began ranks the state third nationally, according to a new report.

According to the report released today analyzing April unemployment data, Michigan shed 22,284 clean energy jobs last month and 7,867 in March. The March figures were revised upward from more than 5,400 initially reported. Only Texas and California have reported more clean energy job losses.

Most of the job losses came from the energy efficiency sector, which makes up the largest portion — seven out of 10 — of U.S. clean energy jobs, according to federal employment data.

Carla Walker-Miller, CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services Inc., which specializes in residential energy efficiency retrofits, said the “struggle for survival has been a humbling experience for our team.” 

The Detroit-based company shut down operations five days before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first stay-at-home order in March since a large portion of its work involves in-home visits. Last year, the company visited more than 30,000 homes for audits and efficiency projects. 

“Business immediately went from planning for growth to addressing the COVID-19 economy,” Walker-Miller said on a press call today. “Will our business model even work? Will we be able to grow our team? I suspect the recovery for many residential energy contractors will lag that of others.”

The report released by Environmental Entrepreneurs, E4TheFuture, the American Council on Renewable Energy and BW Research Partnership builds off data showing the early losses in March. 

Overall clean energy job losses were bleaker than initially reported by the groups. In total, the U.S. shed 594,300 clean energy jobs, or 17.8 percent, since the start of the pandemic. Roughly 850,000 jobs are expected to be lost by the end of the second quarter absent intervention from federal lawmakers with stimulus funds.

“What was bad has gotten a lot worse,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs.

A previous projection that showed roughly 500,000 positions, or 15 percent of all clean energy jobs, would be lost by the end of the second quarter “has already been surpassed,” according to the report. “Based on that analysis, along with forecasts from clean energy trade groups and reports from individual companies, we conservatively project that the clean energy sector will lose about a quarter of its workforce or 850,000 jobs by the end of the second quarter if no actions are taken to support the clean energy industry and its workers.”

While Michigan clean energy companies started returning to work last week under an executive order that lifted restrictions on the construction industry, it remains unclear how many of the job losses will be regained.

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